Paul Lee cemented his new status as Star’s go-to-guy, again saving his team in the clutch on Thursday night.
With the Hotshots in desperate need of a basket in the final minute, Lee took matters into his own hands and delivered.
He took the leather from Rafi Reavis with five seconds remaining on the shot clock, spun in between Japeth Aguilar and Sol Mercado and heaved an off-the-glass floater over the outstretched arms of Kevin Ferrer to send the raucous crowd inside Smart Araneta Coliseum on its feet.
That cold-blooded basket with 24.9 seconds to spare proved to be the marginal basket as Star pulled off the 78-74 Game 1 victory over Ginebra.
Though he’s glad that the Hotshots escaped with the win, Lee said that his game-clinching shot was part luck.
“I was just lucky. Actually, it was a broken play. We didn’t get to execute our play off the time out so I just took charge. I got the ball from Rafi and luckily, I got it on time. I didn’t have second thoughts, I just attacked. I saw an open lane, focused on my shot, and thankfully, it went in.”
It’s not like this was the first time Lee had pull off this kind of heroic after he had saved his old squad Rain or Shine a number of times.
Lee gave credit to Chito Victolero’s defensive scheme, allowing them to stay toe-to-toe with Tim Cone’s Ginebra. And he hopes the Hotshots show the same defensive intensity for the rest of the series.
“The way we play, it’s really all about defense. If we win, we forget that, move on, and focus on our next games. Our chemistry is also better, and the longer we go, the more we trust each other both on offense and defense. That’s really a huge thing for us,” he said.
With Star getting an early lead in the best-of-7 semifinals series Lee expects tougher competitiong in the games to come.
“From now until the end of this series, the games will always be like that. Ginebra is a defensive team and we’re also a defensive team. Whoever is the tougher to defend will be the one to prevail.”
Game 2 is on Saturday at Mall of Asia Arena.