They say basketball is a game of runs. In this game, both teams had their own runs but it was the Purefoods Star Hotshots who made an important run late in the game to escape with a win against the Meralco Bolts in Biñan, Laguna, 77-74.
Unlike in their previous outings, Purefoods actually started this game strong. At the half, they lead the Bolts on good team rebounding and solid defense, as they were able to limit Meralco 33 points at an abysmal shooting clip of less than 30%.
However, the Bolts, lead by Mr. Hot Hands himself, Gary David, staged a 3rd quarter uprising that turned the game around to their favor, 59-52.
But Purefoods simply refused to give up on this one as they turned it up when it mattered the most, the 4th quarter. Purefoods is still a team that simply knows when it’s time to win and they displayed it in this game. Huge baskets by PJ Simon, Yousef Taha, and Mark Barroca anchored that 4th quarter run that gave Purefoods a sizeable edge with 2 minutes to go in the ball game. Meralco tried its best to recover as they came to within 3 points with only seconds left in the game. Meralco had the chance to send the game into overtime but Purefoods’ defense was able to hold up, forcing Jared Dillinger to take a long three that just grazed the rim. Purefoods held on to win their third straight game as they climbed above .500 for the first time this conference.
|TREB (OREB)||FTs (%)||AST||TO||FBP||BS|
|53 (17)||12/18 (66.7%)||17||16||16||21|
|53 (11)||7/20 (35%)||14||19||5||37|
Purefoods was actually very lucky to escape Meralco in this one. Looking at the stats, it wasn’t a very pretty game for the Hotshots as they failed once more (2nd straight game) to dominate the rebounding battle (considering they’re up against another undersized team). Both teams had 53 rebounds but the Bolts had more offensive rebounds that resulted into more scoring opportunities for them. Luckily for Purefoods, Meralco only sinked 33% of their shots in this game. Also, ball movement has been an issue for Purefoods the past couple of games. In this game, they only tallied 14 assists compared to Meralco’s 17. Purefoods also had troubles taking care of the basketball (19 turnovers) that led to a 16-5 edge for Meralco in terms of fast break scoring.
A major cause for concern for the team in this game should be their miserable shooting percentage from the foul line (35%). Purefoods MUST be able to convert their freethrows. Marc Pingris (0/5), Rafi Reavis (0/2), and Justin Melton (0/2) missed all of their foul shots. As a team, missing 13 out of 20 shots is not acceptable at this level.
But one thing that was a huge lift for Purefoods in this game was the play of their bench. They outscored Meralco’s bench 37-21. Mark Barroca (together with Yousef Taha (more on him later)) led the charge off the bench as he finished with 16 points, 5 rebounds and 1 assist.
TAKING THE LEAD: PJ SIMON
For the 3rd straight game, PJ Simon once more lead Purefoods in terms of scoring. In Purefoods’ last 3 wins, he’s been a major contributor scoring 16 18, and 18. What’s more impressive is that he’s shooting the basketball at a high percentage, averaging 72.1% eFG in their last 3 games. With James Yap still struggling to find his form this conference, PJ Simon’s scoring will be key to the Hotshots campaign and bid for a spot in the playoffs.
TAHAHAHAHA NO MORE: YOUSEF TAHA
Emerging as the unlikely hero for Purefoods in that 4th run was Yousef Taha. Looking more comfortable with Coach Tim Cone’s system as the conference nears the playoffs, Taha dished off a career performance of 14 points (6/7 shooting) (tying his career-high), 9 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 blocks. He was sinking bank shots, undergo stabs, and hook shots inside the pain with so much confidence. With Ian Sangalang out this conference, Yousef Taha continues to willingly step up for Purefoods. He’s been very impressive so far, leading the Hotshots in terms of Player Efficiency Rating (PER).
Honestly, when this guy was traded to Purefoods for Yancy De Ocampo, I had doubts because Yancy was playing so well with the team back then and Taha was a young player that had already played for numerous teams in his very young career. But look at him now, he’s finally found a home in Purefoods.
Next up for Purefoods this coming Wednesday is the KIA Sorento. With the way things are going in the side of KIA, the Hotshots should be on their way to a 4th-straight victory this conference.
Featured Image Credit: Jaime Campos, Spin.ph (Edit: Mi.Ni)