August 22, 2017

Back from long break, Star hopes to stay sharp against dangerous Phoenix

STAR stakes its unbeaten slate in the PBA Governors Cup Wednesday as it battles what coach Chito Victolero describes as an ‘aggressive and energetic’ Phoenix side at the Mall of Asia Arena.

The Hotshots hope to shake off the rust going to the 7 p.m. main game after coming from more than a two-week layoff in a bid to sustain the streak and keep the solo top spot (3-0).

Coach Chito Victolero and his team last played August 4 in a 104-98 win over powerhouse San Miguel Beer.

In contrast, Phoenix has been on a free-fall, losing its last four games after a perfect 2-0 start.

Still, that doesn’t mean the Hotshots are about to lower their guards against the Fuel Masters, who had the Meralco Bolts on the ropes in their last outing only to lose steam in the end, 107-104.

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“Their last game, they played very well but the breaks went to Meralco,” said Victolero.

“And coming from a four-game losing streak, they have the will and passion to break that losing streak. So we need to be ready for that.”

Phoenix parade new import Brandon Brown and new acquisition Jeff Chan in the game against the Bolts, and the two combined for 65 points that went for naught following the team’s fourth straight loss.

But the two remains under the radar of Victolero and his coaching staff, especially with the Fuel Masters raring to get out of their losing punk.

“We prepared very well for this game and my players knew the game plan. We just need to execute on both ends,” he said.

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Injured forward Marc Pingris has already joined the Hotshots in practice after missing the entire Commissioner’s Cup due to a hip injury.

Victolero though, doesn’t see the 35-year-old veteran suiting up in a Star uniform at least in the next two weeks as he continues to get back in playing rhythm.

Gilas stalwarts Jio Jalalon and Matthew Wright are likewise game-time decisions for both teams as the two just arrived with the national team from Lebanon on Tuesday after seeing action in the FIBA Asia Cup.