MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – In a game in which Star Hotshots fans were expressing gratitude to old franchise player James Yap, there rose a new hero.
Paul Lee, as if fittingly taking the baton from the veteran Yap, helped spark the Hotshots to a 99-91 victory over his old team Rain or Shine Elasto Painters in the 2017 PBA Philippine Cup on Sunday, December 18 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Lee finished with 14 points and 4 assists plus one of his classic cold-blooded three-pointers that stretched Star's lead to 93-88 following an 88-all deadlock and a Jio Jalalon floater with under two minutes remaining.
"Ginawa ko lang trabaho ko. For me same lang naman 'yan e, lumipat lang ako sa Star, kailangan ko gawin 'yung trabaho ko dito, kailangan ko mag-perform at manalo kami every game," said Lee said of battling the team that drafted him second over all in 2011.
(I'm just doing my job. For me it's the same, I just transferred to Star, so I need to do my job here, I have to perform and we must win every game.)
The 27-year-old guard, who was traded to Star in exchange for Yap in the offseason, also dished out one of his assist at a crucial time to the waiting hands of Aldrech Ramos in the corner for the dagger trey, 99-91, with 35 ticks remaining.
PJ Simon topscored for Star with 16 points on 7-of-11 shooting. Rookie Jalalon also 14 points, 5 rebounds, and 6 assists while Marc Pingris came off the bench for 11 markers, 8 rebounds, and 3 steals. The veteran forward also had one big block on Raymond Almazan down the stretch.
Allein Maliksi and Ramos chipped in 12 and 11 points, respectively, for the Hotshots, who rallied from a 10-point deficit in the third, and won their third straight game for a 3-2 record.
"It's good for us, our next game is Ginebra, it's a Clasico," said coach Chito Victolero, who came into the hyped game managing his players' emotions.
Raymond Almazan paced the Painters with a game-high 19 points with 13 rebounds. Jay Washington, who breathed some life into Rain or Shine with a triple in the last minute, had 14 points and 6 boards.
Mike Tolomia and Gabe Norwood produced 11 and 10 points, respectively.
Yap, who was serenaded by chants of "Thank you, James!" by the loyal Star fans, had 9 points and 5 rebounds in over 24 minutes as Rain or Shine fell to 3-2.
Star (99): Simon 16, Jalalon 14, Lee 14, Ramos 12, Maliksi 11, Pingris 11, Melton 6, Sangalang 6, Dela Rosa 5, Barroca 4, Reavis 0.
Rain or Shine (91): Almazan 19, Washington 14, Tolomia 11, Norwood 10, Yap 9, Ponferada 8, Ahanmisi 7, Belga 6, Cruz 5, Chan 2.
Quarter scores: 23-23, 42-41, 74-75, 99-91