By Dugout Philippines
QUEZON CITY--Ricardo Ratliffe turned to a cakewalk his expected colossal battle with Alex Stepheson as the Star Hotshots dismantled the Meralco Bolts, 108-90, to inch closer to a Top Two finish in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup eliminations at the Smart Araneta Coliseum Wednesday night.
Ratliffe outclassed Stepheson and the Hotshots made decisive runs in the second and fourth quarters en route to grabbing the solo lead with a 8-2 win-loss card.
The returning Star import collected 32 points and 13 rebounds as against Stepheson’s personal conference-lows of nine markers and nine boards. More importantly, Ratliffe sent his Meralco counterpart out on fouls with over six minutes left to play.
Star opened an 18-point spread in the second period and just when the Bolts came to within six, the Hotshots made a bigger run at the start of the fourth to pull off the emphatic win.
With the loss, the Bolts went down to joint second place with the TNT KaTropa Texters at 7-3, with the San Miguel Beermen and the Barangay Ginebra Kings breathing down their neck at 6-2.
But the Hotshots themselves are not yet safe at 8-2.
“We have to keep on winning at kailangan din namin ng tulong ng ibang teams. Talo kami sa quotient against San Miguel at Ginebra,” said Star coach Chito Victolero.
Still a must-win game for the Hotshots is their last game against the Alaska Milk Aces.
The Hotshots, however, are comfortable with the thought that they have an import that can match up with anybody.
“We need an import like Ricardo. Again, we have no bad blood with Tony (Mitchell), but we need an inside presence that can be provided by Ricardo, lalo na ngayon na wala si Marc Pingris,” Victolero pointed out.
A force on both ends of the floor, Ratliffe anchored Star’s runs that had them leading by 18 in the second quarter, then pulling away again after the Bolts came to within six, 75-81, at the end of the third.
The Hotshots tore the Bolts apart for good on a 13-to-nothing start in the final canto.
The Bolts ended a long scoreless spell in the fourth on a short jumper by Kelly Nabong with 4:55 left to play.
The Hotshots, however, had the game all wrapped up then.
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