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September 21, 2017

Top 4 finish still possible but Star has to do it the hard way

NO thanks to a three-game slide that led to a 1-4 stretch, Star has been put in a precarious situation going to the PBA Governors Cup quarterfinals.

Yet the Hotshots still have a chance, however slim, of making it among the coveted top four and they seek to bolster that when they tangle with winless KIA Friday in the third-to-last day of eliminations at the Mall of Asia Arena.

A win over the Picanto and against NLEX on Sunday would give Star seven wins, which should be enough for inclusion in the magic circle where each member will be rewarded with a twice-to-beat advantage in the next round.

"We need to win our remaining games, then iyung ibang teams matalo," said coach Chito Victolero, whose Hotshots are currently at seventh behind 8-2 leader Ginebra, 7-2 Meralco and TNT and NLEX, both 7-3.

"Wala na sa control namin, pero may chance pa if we take care of our end," added Victolero.

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The prospect of Star getting left out of the top four and being saddled with a twice-to-win handicap surfaced when it lost to the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters, Gin Kings, Bolts and, after a victory over GlobalPort, KaTropa .

But hope springs eternal for the Hotshots and their sights are firmly set on the Picanto, who are coming off impressive performances despite losses to Alaska and, most recently, SMB.

"It's still a very important game for us because of the standings and the placings. We just need to focus one game at a time," said Victolero.

"Kia is a dangerous team because there is no more pressure to play. They almost beat SMB so we just need to go hard, prepare hard, respect the game and respect our opponents in order for us to win this game."

The likes of Paul Lee, Ian Sangalang, Jio Jalalon, Aldrech Ramos, Mark Barroca and Marc Pingris must also give ample support to new import Kristofer Acox for Star to have more than an even chance.

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Acox, who came in as replacement for Malcolm Hill, was decent in his debut, notching 18 points and 18 rebounds with three assists, a block and a steal in a 99-104 loss to TNT last Sunday.

More important, the Hotshots' defense on Kia import Geron Johnson should be key since he has been averaging league highs in both points (36.3) and assists (7.67) on top of 7.0 rebounds in the three games he has played in since replacing Markeith Cummings.

Johnson is also coming off a 42-point, 10-rebound, eight-assist game in a 112-118 loss to SMB and is now expecting more support other than from just Philip Paniamogan, Jackson Corpuz, Mark Yee and Reden Celda now that LA Revilla is off with the national team.