Wright scores buzzer-beating winner as Star evades early elimination by nosing Meralco

By Ivan Saldajeno

PASAY--After NLEX trampled Rain Or Shine earlier Sunday to create some more space against the bottom teams in the race for the eighth and even the seventh spots in the PBA Governors' Cup, Star ended up in a must-win situation against Meralco to salvage its playoff bid.

Joel Wright came to the rescue.

Wright scored the game-winning basket as the Hotshots put a dent to the Bolts' own quarterfinal quest, 104-103, at the Mall of Asia Arena.

Star's American reinforcement made a floater from the baseline with 0.7 second left as the team averted a meltdown and early elimination as well while giving Meralco's bid for a twice-to-beat advantage in the next round a crucial hit.

The fourth quarter commenced with the Hotshots holding a 13-point lead, 83-70, behind a 33-point third quarter, but the Bolts started the period on a 26-9 run to lead, 96-92.

After PJ Simon and Allen Durham exchanged deuces, Star retook the lead, 100-98, on a 6-0 run with 57.9 seconds left.

Durham split his free throws in his next trip to the foul line, but Chris Newsome made 2-out-of-2 to give Meralco the lead anew, 101-100, with 35.3 seconds remaining.

Mark Barroca reclaimed the lead for the Hotshots with a pair of charities of his own with 23.5 seconds to go.

Then they came close to forcing a turnover on Durham, but the latter maintained poise and even went for a one-hander that he missed. Reynel Hugnatan grabbed the loose ball and converted his own floater with 8.2 seconds left.

Wright's heroics then happened, opting out of a corner three and drew closer for the go-ahead teardrop as well as picking Meralco's lob pass at the final horn.

Wright's game-winner actually put to naught a so-so outing for him. Despite leading the Hotshots, who moved up to 2-7, with 27 points, 14 rebounds, two assists, and two blocks, he was accounted for eight of their 18 total turnovers.

All their five starters actually reached double figures with Simon being the next best scorer with 16.

Durham also had 27 markers for the Bolts, who slipped to 5-5.

Box Scores:

Star 104-Wright 27, Simon 16, Maliksi 15, Pingris 15, Barroca 13, Mallari 7, Garcia 6, Brondial 2, Melton 2, Gaco 1, Pascual 0, Reavis 0

Meralco 103-Durham 27, Newsome 20, Hodge 18, Alapag 14, Hugnatan 11, Nabong 7, Amer 3, Faundo 2, Dillinger 1, Buenafe 0, Caram 0

Quarterscores: 31-23, 50-52, 83-70, 104-103

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