Way before this series started, STAR was banking on their experience to propel them to the next round and beat this young and talented GlobalPort team two times in a row – and yes, it was their championship poise and experience that prevailed as they closed out the series with a gritty win, 101-94.
After a lopsided loss that forced a do-or-die game, the Batang Pier eventually showed up and gave the Hotshots a real fight. Coach Tim Cone was right in saying after Game 1 that the real test for them would be this 2nd game – the closer. They were really tested by the feisty young guns of GlobalPort in an up-and-down affair that boiled down to the last few minutes of the game.
In the first quarter, it looked like it would be a rout again as the Hotshots had their way once again, reminiscent of their domination back in Game 1. The Batang Pier still looked lost on the defensive end and the Hotshots were able to exploit it and score on easy baskets. If this was a boxing match, it was a very strong first round for STAR, landing some big shots. GlobalPort on the other hand were able to land some punches but it barely hurt the Hotshots.
Come the 2nd quarter, it was the moment wherein GlobalPort finally unleashed the form that led them to a Top 4 finish at the end of the eliminations. Their defense started to click and it enabled them to quicken the pace of the game that worked pretty well in their favor. However, the Hotshots were able to find some answer to this in PJ Simon who waxed hot that enabled them to still take a 9-point advantage at the half.
The 3rd quarter however was quite a different story. For the first time in this series, the Hotshots were outscored by the Batang Pier in a quarter, 25-21. The Hotshots had no answer to the inside-outside attack of Romeo-Pringle-Famous. Struggling with his outside shot for most of the series, Pringle decided to take it strong inside and it worked. For Romeo, he was his usual self hitting some huge threes. As for Famous, he was able to adjust to the defense allowing him to fish for fouls from STAR.
And the 4th quarter was when the intensity of the game reached its peak. It was a quarter that both teams landed haymaker after haymaker towards each other. But with the Hotshots’ experience they were the ones who were able to make that huge end game run that knocked the fight out of the Batang Pier. Blakely (who had a triple double in this game), Yap, Mallari, and Pingris were responsible for that defining run while Romeo on the other hand failed to hit the big shots when it mattered. At that point, Pringle and Famous were too exhausted because of their game-long effort to make the key plays down the stretch.
Looking at it in a game-wide perspective, how was STAR able to overcome this twice-to-beat disadvantage against a younger team in GlobalPort? Let’s look at some numbers.
First thing, the Hotshots were able to shoot the ball better than GlobalPort. The main reason behind this was their defense. Although Famous, Pringle, and Romeo all scored in double figures, they had to bleed for their points. Severely affected by STAR’s suffocating defense was Terrence Romeo who struggled against the defense of the taller Alex Mallari and at times against the more athletic Justin Melton. In two games against STAR, Romeo was only able to convert 12 of 35 field goal attempts (34.3%). With the struggle of Romeo, his team was reduced to an offensive rating below 100 (96.7 in this game, 83.0 for the series), a far cry from their 107.4 ORTG (1st) in the eliminations.
Aside from their defense, the Hotshots were able to move the ball around the better. Unlike in the eliminations, there were fewer isolation plays and most of their points came either from the triangle or from the transition. In this game, STAR was able to assist on 25 of their 36 field goals while GlobalPort on the other hand were only able to assist 14 of their 34 makes.
Talking about transition, before the series started, I was a believer that for the Hotshots to advance, they must not fall into the trap of running with the Batang Pier. But they’ve proven everybody wrong once more by winning the battle in transition for the 2nd straight game. In the first game, it was because of their stellar defense that forced GlobalPort into turnovers that led into fast break opportunities for them. However, in the 2nd game, it wasn’t a conscious effort on the part of Coach Tim’s squad to run the break against their younger counterparts. It was an in-game adjustment made by Coach Tim as the Batang Pier’s defense were able to check their set plays. With this, in order for them to get the ball in the hoop, they exploited Batang Pier’s weak transition defense whenever they got the chance. It worked and it just showed how genius of a tactician Tim Cone is.
Bench production was also another aspect of the game wherein the Hotshots were able to dominate. With PJ Simon, Joe Devance, and Marc Pingris coming off the bench, the Hotshots still had enough fire power whenever they had to rest their starters. For the Batang Pier, it was their starters who did most of the work except Buenafe and Jensen and it proved costly at the endgame wherein some of them succumbed to fatigue including their import, Jarrid Famous.
ON TO THE NEXT: ALASKA ACES
With this win, the Hotshots made history by overcoming a twice-to-beat disadvantage for the first time under the leadership of Coach Tim Cone. Usually, they are on the other side of this but this time, they had to work their way out and into the next round.
With a masterful 2-game series against GlobalPort, the Hotshots’ quest to defending the last jewel of their Grand Slam is still alive and kicking. However, they’ve got no time to celebrate as what awaits them in the next round is the number one team in the league in the Alaska Aces.
It’s going to be a great match-up between two loaded and disciplined teams with a long-standing winning tradition and I can’t wait for the action to get started. It will be a physical and rugged match-up and I’m sure the Hotshots will be up for the challenge.
Featured Image Credit: Pranz Kaeno Billones, Sports 5 (Edited by: MI.NI Graphics and Design)