Denzel Bowles slowed down at the finish of his personal PBA best of 49 points but James Yap and Mark Barroca took over to get Purefoods Star over the late-charging Talk n Text, 100-94, in the opener of their PBA Commissioner’s Cup Final Four faceoff at the Smart Araneta Coliseum Wednesday night.
As Bowles fired blanks in the last three minutes, Yap and Barroca came through with clutch plays, propelling the Hotshots to a 1-0 lead in their side of the best-of-five semifinal series.
“We played a flawless first half but we lost energy in the second half. I thought they totally dominated us in the second half,” said Purefoods coach Tim Cone after they barely survived a fourth-quarter breakdown.
“Denzel was awesome in the first half and then we stopped moving and started watching him make the shots. We have to be more disciplined than that. If we do, we’ll make it easier for Denzel,” Cone also said.
“We have to figure out a way to keep ourselves involved,” added Cone, hoping to make it two in a row at the resumption of their playoff Monday also at the Big Dome.
During the break, a concern for the Hotshots is Marc Pingris’ health woe.
Pouncing on Pingris’ ouster in the third quarter due to an ankle sprain, Talk n Text import Ivan Johnson piled up 28 points in the second half, a major factor in the Texters’ comeback from 21 points down at 48-69.
“Ping is so crucial in our matchups. Once we lost him, we scrambled. Hopefully, the four-day break would be enough time for him to get back in our lineup. If it’s just a first-degree sprain, he can come back. We’re keeping our fingers crossed,” said Cone.
The Texters fought to within one at 83-84 and were still very much in the game before Yap and Barroca seized the moment at the finish.
Yap scored on a layup and then Barroca came up with a big steal and a magical shot to beat the 24-second shotclock buzzer as Purefoods regained a safe lead at 97-89 with time down to 47 seconds.
Bowles scored only eight in the payoff period after sizzling with 18 in the first, 11 in the second and 12 in the third.
Still, the one-time PBA Best Import awardee broke his previous PBA best of 39 points made in Purefoods’ conquest of the same rival in the deciding Game Seven of the 2012 Commissioner’s Cup Finals.
So strong was Bowles’ start that he outscored the entire Talk n Text team, 18-17, in the opening quarter.
He added 11 in the second period and matched his average of 31 points by drilling in Purefoods’ first basket in the second half.
With Bowles’ overpowering performance, the Hotshots led by 16, 31-15, right in the opening period then increased the bubble to 18, 41-23, before closing the half at 51-36.
The Texters couldn’t keep up with the Hotshots with Johnson limited to 2-of-8 field shooting in the first 24 minutes of play.
The Hotshots went on a five-minute scoreless spell at the start of the second period but the Texters failed to capitalize.
Purefoods got going again as Bowles sustained his fiery form in his return from a four-minute rest. (SB)
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