Star pulls off huge comeback, frustrates Alaska

By Ivan Saldajeno

PASAY--With their backs against the wall all of a sudden, the Alaska Aces needed a win on Wednesday night.

They came close, but the Star Hotshots turned the tides in the dying moments.

Star rallied from 21 points down to stun Alaska in overtime, 102-98, in their PBA Commissioner's Cup clash at the Cuneta Astrodome.

Down 52-73 late in the third quarter, the Hotshots went on a 26-4 run spanning to the fourth quarter to take a 78-77 lead with 5:40 left.

They came close to winning it in regulation after extending their lead to five, 86-81, with 3:07 remaining in the fourth.

But back-to-back triples from Cory Jefferson with only a split from Ricardo Ratliffe in between forced an 87-all deadlock with 2:27 left in regulation.

Ratliffe made two free throws in his next trip to the line for an 89-87 Star lead with 2:06 left in regulation, but Jefferson scored again to knot the count at 89-all with 53.5 seconds to go in regulation.

Mark Barroca botched two chances to give the Hotshots the lead, but Jefferson failed to sustain his clutch heroics as he missed a triple at the buzzer.

It was all-Star in the first 3:30 of the overtime session as the team took a 97-93 lead, but Alaska still put up a fight, scoring five straight to take a 98-97 lead with 50.1 seconds left.

Justin Melton, however, broke the Aces' hearts with a booming triple with 26.2 seconds remaining for the 100-98 Hotshots edge.

Their defense then forced Jefferson to take a contested three that he missed.

Ratliffe finally sealed the comeback with two free throws with 9.1 seconds remaining.

Ratliffe finished with 35 points, 26 in the second half and overtime, 28 rebounds, three assists, and five blocks for Star, whose bid for a twice-to-beat advantage in the quarterfinals will now rely on the Friday night doubleheader at the Smart Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City with San Miguel, a 124-113 come-from-behind winner over Blackwater earlier Wednesday, taking on GlobalPort and Ginebra battling Mahindra.

Calvin Abueva led Alaska, which fell for the seventh straight time, with 22 points, seven rebounds, one assists, four steals, and two blocks.

The Aces' hopes of entering the quarterfinals outright also depends on the upcoming twinbill.

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