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Star nearly blows 19-point lead but holds on against NLEX

Justin Melton made the game-saving steal for Star. PBA
By Kevin Estrada

PASIG--The Star Hotshots almost blew a nineteen point lead midway in the third, but got themselves together in the final eleven seconds to pip NLEX, 97-95, in a Sunday showcase of the PBA Philippine Cup at the PhilSports Arena.

P.J. Simon came off the bench to lead the former Grand Slam winners with 21 points followed by James Yap and Alex Mallari with 19 and 14 markers respectively.

Justin Melton had 13 points but made the biggest steal off Kevin Alas and his split from the free throw line with a second to go enough for Coach Jason Webb to go .500 at the team standings.

Sean Anthony's game-high 28 points went down the drain as the Road Warriors almost completed an upset win after going 19 down

But their endgame composure deserted them with crucial turnovers and misses from the free throw line consigned to their first defeat of the season after winning their first two games.

The first quarter is a nip-and-tuck affair with runs made against each other. After being down by seven in the opening minutes, the Hotshots get their first lead 15-13 on an 8-0 run en route to a 24-20 scoreline.

The second quarter was the same as first with neither team led by more than 5 until the Hotshots pulled away in the latter stages to set up a ten-point margin, 47-37 as they go to their locker rooms at the break.

Coach Jason Webb must have thought that the game was on the bag already in the third, as they made a hot 11-2 start in the quarter for the game's biggest lead, 58-39 on a lay-up by Yap. The third ended with the Hotshots leading by fifteen, 78-63.

But the Road Warriors made sure that they will made to sweat to get the precious W as they cut the lead to just a solitary point on a split by Anthony with eleven seconds to go, 95-96, to set up one of the craziest finishes to the game early this season

After Yap missed his free throws, NLEX tried to steal the game from the hotshots but Melton comes to the rescue to take the ball away from Kevin Alas, with the high flying diminuitive guard splits his free throws with a second remaining.

The Road Warriors have the last chance to win it, but came up short as Jonas Villanueva's last second heave came up short.

Box Scores:

Star 97-Simon 21, Yap 19, Mallari 14, Melton 13, J. Pascual 11, Sangalang 10, Maliksi 4, Pingris 3, Taha 2, Barroca 0, R. Pascual 0, Torres 0

NLEX 95-Anthony 28, Taulava 18, Alas 10, Enciso 9, Apinan 7, Lanete 6, Villanueva E. 6, Camson 4, Khobuntin 4, Villanueva J. 2, Cardona 1, Borboran 0. Reyes 0

Quarterscores: 24-20, 47-37, 78-63, 97-95

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