Star Hotshots overcome TNT KaTropa behind the returning Ricardo Ratliffe

2017 PBA Commissioners Cup Star Hotshots-Talk 'N Text pic 9 by Roy Afable

SH 107 – TNT 97

The Star Hotshots and the TNT Ka-Tropa were two racers running alongside each other before their meeting this conference. They both sported 6-2 records heading into their match. Both of these teams also had minor personnel changes in the days heading into the game.

The Hotshots brought back former import Ricardo Ratliffe to strengthen their team heading into the playoffs. They needed a player familiar with their system, but who was just as hardworking and energetic as their previous import, Tony Mitchell.

The Ka-Tropa were going to play for the second game without Jayson Castro who is currently on loan to the Gilas National Team. This is also the first game that they’re playing without Larry Fonacier. The veteran forward was traded away to sister team NLEX, freeing up a spot in the wings.

2017 PBA Commissioners Cup Star Hotshots-Talk 'N Text pic 5 by Roy Afable

In the opening quarter, it was TNT that raced out ahead. Import Donte Greene looked unstoppable in the first quarter. He was isolating Rafi Reavis at the top of the key and making the big man dance with his crossover and fancy footwork. Green scored 12 points in the first quarter. His outside shooting opened up space for guys like Kris Rosales, Ryan Reyes and Ranidel De Ocampo to score inside.

With their offense clicking, the Ka-Tropa took a 33-17 lead.

In contrast, the Star Hotshots were still finding their range. Ratliffe looked like he was lost in the opening 12 minutes. He was letting guys slip by him on defense and wasn’t scoring within the flow of the offense. He could only muster half of Green’s output after the first quarter.

The second quarter was when the Hotshots woke up and started to get themselves back in the game.

Instead of forcing the issue on offense, Ratliffe got himself going by crashing the offensive glass. He was playing with more energy on the offensive end and making his way into the paint for offensive rebounds, put-backs and tip-ins. Ratliffe also took it upon himself to defend Greene on the other end.

Greene was still on fire from his first quarter burst and was hitting incredible shots even with Ratliffe on him. But there was a subtle difference to how he was getting his points. He was working more to score in the second quarter. He wasn’t getting open with fancy dribbles anymore. His inside baskets were also cut down with Ratliffe staying in front of him. By the end of the first half, Ratliffe and Greene both had 25 points to their names.

2017 PBA Commissioners Cup Star Hotshots-Talk 'N Text pic 10 by Roy Afable

The rest of the Hotshots found their range with Aldrech Ramos hitting two treys and PJ Simon working in the midrange. A Mark Barroca floater at the halftime buzzer would give Star a one-point edge over TNT.

The Hotshots steadily took control of the game in the second half. The defense that Ratliffe started on Greene in the second quarter took effect in the second half. Greene had a miserable half, scoring only four more points the entire game. With Greene’s offense gone, the TNT offense was in disarray.

Star took advantage of this and solidified their ball movement and running game in the half. Paul Lee who totaled 17 points in the game, led the locals in scoring. He teamed up with Ratliffe to keep TNT at bay and win by a comfortable margin.

With that win, the Hotshots outpaced TNT and took one of the slots in the playoffs. They’re now battling for seeding and aiming for the top slots in the standings to set themselves up better for another championship run.