Star now up 2-0
Needing just two more victories to advance to a first title series appearance in nearly four seasons, Star coach Chito Victolero feels that being strong mentally will be the key to completing the job.
“The Xs and Os are secondary at this point,” Victolero said after the Hotshots outsteadied Barangay Ginebra, 91-89, for a 2-0 lead in their Final Four series in the PBA Philippine Cup at Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay Saturday night.
“It’s all about the mental aspect now. Ginebra will come back and we have to be ready for that,” he went on. “[A] 2-0 [lead] is nothing if we don’t win a third game and it’s a best-of-seven, and we need [to win] four [games].”
Paul Lee scored four straight points that gave the Hotshots the buffer they needed to cushion Ginebra’s finishing kick and lead Star to another squeaker for the second straight game.
The Hotshots thus won an eighth straight game overall and will be looking for a huge 3-0 lead this Monday at 7 p.m. also at MOA Arena.
Victolero, though way ahead of counterpart Tim Cone in the series, continued to give respect to the two-time Grand Slam winner, saying: “You cannot outcoach coach Tim. Like I said in Game 1, I need my players to help me [in Game 2].”
He did get the help he needed on both ends as four players finished in twin digits for Star, with Lee firing all of his 17 in the final three periods and Allein Maliksi, Justin Melton and Marc Pingris combining for 35.
Star’s bench also outworked its counterparts, firing 45 points against 16 for Ginebra as Cone’s manpower woes surfaced with Joe Devance and the 7-foot Greg Slaughter still out with injuries.
Meanwhile, in the other half of the Final Four, defending champion San Miguel Beer battles TNT KaTropa at 6:30 p.m. Sunday at Smart Araneta Coliseum to break a 1-1 series tie.
The Texters have some momentum going for them after pulling out an 87-85 win on Friday night that snapped the Beermen’s 11-game winning streak.
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