Was that really an elimination game right there? Because it certainly didn’t feel like one. It was playoff atmosphere out there in the Ynares Center in Antipolo as the KIA Sorento tried its very best to score an upset against the rising Purefoods Star Hotshots.
And they almost did.
Playing inspired basketball bolstered by the return of their playing-coach Manny Pacquiao, KIA Sorento made it a very interesting affair, going toe-to-toe with the Grandslam Champs.
It was a very tight first half (34-34) wherein the Hotshots were obviously bothered by the aggressive defensive play of KIA. It also didn’t help that the Sorento’s shots were falling and on the other end, Purefoods were missing point-blank baskets inside the paint. KIA kept up the pressure against Purefoods in the 3rd quarter that saw them overtake and lead by as much as 8 points. To tell you the truth, it was quite unbelievable. Quite surreal.
Fortunately for Purefoods, they snapped back to reality just in time to avoid a gigantic upset at the hands of KIA, 88-77.
Story of the Game: 4th Quarter Explosion!
For the first 36 minutes of action, the Hotshots only managed to score 17 points per quarter. They had to bleed for their points. But come the 4th quarter, Purefoods came out like a different animal. They smelled blood and went for the kill. The Hotshots unleashed a furious run anchored on impressive defense (which was non-existent in the 1st half) en route to a 37-point 4th quarter explosion.
Mark Barroca (15 points, 7 rebounds, and 5 assists) led the charge for Purefoods scoring 9 of his 15 points in the 4th quarter. He took the lead in terms of defense teaming up with Alex Mallari (8 points in the 4th) forcing KIA to commit lots of turnovers in the final minutes of action. The attack of Purefoods both on offense and on defense was quite similar to what Manny Pacquiao would do to his opponents in the boxing ring. It was a dizzying run as all of a sudden, Purefoods was able to erect their biggest lead in the 4th quarter. Just like most of Pac-Man’s opponents, KIA didn’t know what hit them. But it hit them pretty hard.
Special mention also goes out to Joe Devance who also played a splendid 4th quarter as he provided stability for Purefoods in that all-important run. He finished with a game-high, 16 points (13 in the 4th) on 6/9 shooting to go with 7 rebounds and 5 assists as well.
|TREB (OREB)||TOs||TO PTS||2nd Chance PTS||PTS in the Paint|
Looking at the stat sheet, aside from that scoring outburst by Purefoods, what won them the game is that they continued going to their advantage for most part of the game.
They were able to grab more rebounds especially on the offensive end giving them more shot opportunities compared to KIA. As a result, they had more 2nd chance points. They also went to their bread and butter which was inside the paint. They used good passing inside to create scoring chances inside not only for their bigs but for their guards as well.
Lastly, Purefoods used their main weapon which was defense. They forced KIA to commit 25 turnovers (most of them in the 4th) and converted 19 points from those errors.
*Only 3 days after his fight against Algieri, playing-coach Manny Pacquiao suited up for this game against Purefoods! What a guy this guy! He was able to hype up the crowd before the game joining his team in the warm-ups. He drove fans in the Ynares Center into frenzy when he hit back-to-back three-point shots in the pre-game shooting. However, Pacquiao wasn’t able to play in this game saying that his body is still sore from his fight last Sunday. Sayang. Magandang laban sana ‘yung Pacquiao vs. Barroca. Haha!
*Luckily for other teams, the Big 3 of Purefoods still haven’t had a game wherein all three of them were clicking. It was the same case in this game. After his superb outing in their last 3 games, PJ Simon went cold in this one. As in Beer-Below-Zero levels. He only scored 6 points (2/11 FG) without any conversion from downtown (0/3). On the other hand, James Yap had a hot start for the Hotshots scoring a total of 12 points (all in the 1st half) together with 8 rebounds and 2 assists as well. Marc Pingris also made his presence felt in this game as he finished with 9 points and 7 rebounds but it seems that he’s timing is not yet perfect and we are yet to see the dominant Sakuragi in the Philippine Cup. Hopefully, the three of them can get their act together soon as the playoffs is just 3 games away.
*Freethrows. In their last game against Meralco, Purefoods missed 13 out of their 20 foul shots. They made up for it in this game as they only missed a total of 5 freebies (21/26 FT) with no player missing more than 1 free throw. Thank you to Coach Richard Del Rosario’s School of Freethrow Shooting! Haha!
The Purefoods Star Hotshots will be facing a big test in their next game against the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters. Just like them, the Elasto Painters are on a 4-game winning streak. Purefoods can’t afford a slow start like in this game and expect to be able to do a run late in the game like they did against KIA. No offense to the Sorento but the Elasto Painters are just not on the same level as they are. Purefoods need to be more focused than ever in their next match-up for them to be able to extend their winning streak to 5 and continue moving up the team standings.
Featured Image Credit: Czeasar Dancel/NPPA Images (Edit: MI.NI)