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Why did the Aces fail to pull off another comeback?

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Game 1 may have been attributed to luck, Game 3 may have been just another good shooting day for the Aces, but Game 4 was not another lucky day for Alaska. Had they been lucky last night, this team could have been crowned the comeback champions of all time. It didn’t happen though, for a multitude of reasons.

Being down by as much as 22 and 21 in Games 1 and 3 respectively, Alaska made miracles happen as they turned the tables to grab series leads in both comebacks. The Aces were even crowned the new “Never Say Die” team. But in Game 4, a 29-point deficit was too much to handle for the Aces as San Miguel finally figured out the mystery of Alaska’s comebacks.

Conclusions

There are many reasons why the Aces fell short this time. A Dondon Hontiveros missed three-point attempt at the height of another would-be rally spun around the rim but went out. Some costly turnovers, which were not seen during their Game 1 and 3 resurgences, could also be considered reasons for their failed revolt.

But the missed comeback can be attributed to two main factors. First is that the Aces may have run out of gas as they tried to pressure all conference long, especially in their difficult finals encounters. Secondly, the Beermen may have found an answer to the running game of the Aces.

What really happened?vs Blackwater

The simple answer is, “We got beaten.”

These were the words of Alaska head coach Alex Compton. It’s a three-word sentence, but that really is the story of the game. As Compton pointed out, his wards didn’t win in any statistical department- although that wasn’t actually the case as they still got the better of San Miguel in terms of bench scoring, fast break points, and inside points.

A 35-53 difference in rebounds may be the shortest summary of the rout, which took the Beermen two attempts to pull off. Also, San Miguel made 11 more three-pointers than the Aces and maybe this statistic alone tells the story of the game. Is it possible that Alaska is running out of steam? Compton had to dig deeper into his bench, inserting Rome Dela Rosa for the majority of the crucial parts of the second half when they were not successful in their half-court trap.

“We just have so much respect for Alaska,” said San Miguel head coach Leo Austria.

While Compton felt that they were truly beaten, Austria said that his team just has so much respect for the Aces and they really prepared for possible comebacks coming into the game. The Aces’ comeback attempt could have been cut short considering the Beermen were already anticipating a possible turn of the tables once again.

“This is a seven game series, we just have to get back in Game 5,” quipped Alaska team captain Tony dela Cruz, believing his team doesn’t have to be down after their Game 4 meltdown.

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Returning Jericho Cruz believes complacency led to embarrassing loss to KIA

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Photo by PBA Images

After three months of being on the sidelines due to a medial collateral ligament injury in his left knee, Jericho Cruz finally sniffed the court for the first time this 2017-18 Philippine Cup, Saturday at the Cuneta Astrodome.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t the return he had envisioned.

The Elasto Painters shockingly bowed to the often-ridiculed Kia Picanto, 94-98 — an unacceptable defeat knowing that the Picanto were winless in 16 games and last tasted a win on May 21, 2017 against Phoenix Fuel Masters, 122-121.

“Siyempre it’s sad. ‘Di namin in-expect. Pero siyempre the ball is round,” said Cruz, who scored just a point in 10 minutes, obviously disappointed with the result.

“Di ako masyadong makasalita masyado kasi sobrang sad.”

Heading into Saturday’s bout, the Elasto Painters were heavily favored to win, considering the way the Picanto lost their last three games. In their bouts against Phoenix, Magnolia, and Alaska, Kia lost an average of 35.7 points.

For the 27-year-old guard, he thinks that Rain or Shine’s overconfidence led to the embarrassing setback.

“Siguro sobrang kumpiyansa lang din namin kanina, kaya yun,” rued the four-year pro out of Adamson. “Sobrang sad namin ngayon, pero okay lang, bounce back na lang.

“Tomorrow’s gonna be another day to get better.”

Asked if Raymond Almazan’s ejection from the match due to a brawl with Eric Camson late in the first half affected the Elasto Painters, Cruz doesn’t believe so.

“‘Di naman, kasi lahat naman kami pwedeng mag-step up eh,” expressed the 6-foot-1 guard. “Pero having Raymond being able to play in the game na nandoon siya, yung presence of mind niya, malaking bagay siya eh.

“(Lalo na) With his defense, with his length, ‘di ba. Ayun,” he added.

But like what he said, the E-Painters will just look forward and try to grow from the loss. And the six-foot-one Cruz personally plans to do the same thing, as he aims to regain his game shape after recovering from his knee injury.

“It’s getting better na (left knee). [But] I’m not yet 100 percent at this stage,” he said.

“Siguro nasa 70 percent. Kulang pa ‘ko sa hangin.”

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KIA holds on late against Rain or Shine to end 16-game losing skid

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The Kia Picanto’s months-long, 16-game losing skid has finally come to an end at the expense of the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters, 98-94, in a fight-marred affair, Saturday evening at the Cuneta Astrodome in Pasay City.

The Picanto, who lost an average of 35.7 points in their last three outings, are now 1-4 in the team standings. Meanwhile, the Elasto Painters, who were coming off a 120-99 victory over the Phoenix Fuel Masters last January 17, dropped to 2-3.

“Finally nasa press room ako hindi nasa corridor. I’m relieved more than tired. I’m more relieved than anything else,” said Kia head coach Ricky Dandan. “We finally broke that (skid) and this will go a long way in our rebuilding for our ball club.”

Rashawn McCarthy and Roider Cabrera scored 14 apiece to lead the Picanto, with the former adding four assists. Forward Mark Yee flirted with a double-double as he finished with 13 markers and eight rebounds.

Kia spent the majority of the final frame ahead, but RoS kept fighting and stayed within distance. However, the Picanto built enough separation, 96-89, with 1:52 to go thanks to McCarthy and three-year pro Glenn Khobuntin.

But just as the win was within their grasp, Rain or Shine imposed a serious threat. Behind an Ed Daquioag jumper and Chris Tiu’s visits to the foul line, the E-Painters managed to close within a field goal, 96-94, with 21.9 ticks left.

RoS had a chance to pull the rug from underneath Kia after forcing McCarthy into a turnover off the inbound with less than 20 seconds left, but shots taken by Tiu, Daquiaog, and Maverick Ahanmisi did not find the mark.

Mark Yee was able to secure the miss, but found himself in a jump ball situation afterwards after a fight for the ball with Beua Belga. Yee won the tip, and Khobuntin was there to get the ball and ran it down for the game-sealing lay-up.

The six-foot-three Khobuntin — probably the star of the night for Kia, as he steadied the Picanto’s ship in the end-game — contributed 11 markers on 5-of-7 shooting, scoring eight in the final frame.

RoS’ loss put in vain the breakout game of rookie Rey Nambatac as he had 12 points and 11 rebounds. James Yap scored 11 markers on 4-of-8 shooting, while Tiu and Jewel Ponferrada scored 10 apiece, with Tiu having six boards.

Ahanmisi nearly had a double-double as he had nine points and eight rebounds along with four dimes.

Moreover, this defeat of theirs was a sour welcome for Jericho Cruz, who made his 2018 Philippine Cup debut after missing their first four games due to a knee injury. He only scored one point in the 10:32 minutes he played.

The crazy finish of the match somehow shadowed the brawl between Raymond Almazan and Eric Camson, which took place in the 3:01-mark of the second canto. Both were slapped with penalty two flagrant fouls and were ejected.

Almazan, who had just returned to RoS after being put under disciplinary actions after bumping heads with coach Caloy Garcia, finished with six markers and four rebounds. Camson had 10 points, five rebounds, and four assists.

Kia were not able to parade new acquisition Carlo Lastimosa. The scoring guard, whom they signed from the free agent market, was in street clothes on the sidelines after spraining his ankle during team practice.

Rain or Shine will look to book their third straight win against the NLEX Road Warriors on January 26, Friday, while Kia will aim to end their historic skid versus the Meralco Bolts on January 24, Wednesday. Both games are set at 4:30 PM at SMART Araneta Coliseum.

The Scores:

KIA 98 – McCarthy 14, Cabrera 14, Yee 13, Khobuntin 11, Camson 10, Celda 8, Galanza 8, Ababou 6, Sara 5, Tubid 5, Caperal 4.

Rain or Shine 94 – Nambatac 12, Yap 11, Tiu 10, Ponferada 10, Ahanmisi 9, Belga 8, Norwood 8, Borboran 7, Maiquez 6, Almazan 6, Daquioag 4, King 2, Cruz 1, Matias 0, Trollano 0.

Quarterscores: 13-18; 40-44: 72-68; 98-94.

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Raymond Almazan ejected in return

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It was supposed to be a redemption game for Raymond Almazan after he was benched last Wednesday for the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters against the Phoenix Fuel Masters, for disciplinary reasons. But unfortunately, it went the the other way around.

The six-foot-eight center was ejected in the Elasto Painters’ match versus Kia Picanto on Friday evening at the Cuneta Astrodome, following a near-brawl that took place between him and opposing big man Eric Camson.

The incident took place with 3:01 remaining in the second quarter, with the Picanto ahead 34-31. Almazan and Camson were both inside the paint looking for position to grab the missed three-pointer of Jeremy King.

Things then went chippy afterwards, as Camson elbowed Almazan. It did not sit well with the latter and he retaliated, leading to the near-brawl that saw both players swing their arms at each other.

Almazan and Camson had to be separated by their teammates and officials. Moments later, both of them were whistled for a flagrant foul penalty two and were ordered to leave the playing court for good.

Almazan finished with six points and three rebounds in six minutes and 10 seconds of action, while Camson exited the bout with 10 markers, five rebounds, and four assists in over 16 minutes of playing time.

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Fired-up Von Pessumal on Kiefer Ravena incident: ‘I’m not here to make any friends’

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Will bridges be burned?

Von Pessumal was heavily-scrutinized Friday evening after an incident with fellow Ateneo lifer Kiefer Ravena.

It took place with 9:50 left in the final frame of the San Miguel Beermen’s highly-charged tilt against the NLEX Road Warriors. After Marcio Lassiter launched a trey, Pessumal looked like he was aiming for the rebound. Instead, he simply charged towards Ravena and pushed him down.

Lassiter’s three-pointer counted, while Pessumal, who was blocked by Ravena in a fastbreak and then received a staredown moments prior, was whistled for an unsportsmanlike foul.

It was a surprising sight to see considering the amount of time he and Ravena have spent together — a bond that started ever since they were in high school. Even the second-generation star admitted that he did not expect that from his former running buddy.

“I did not expect that at all,” said the NLEX rookie.

But Pessumal downplayed such incident despite attempts by scribes to make him elaborate what had really transpired during that moment.

“It’s part of the game. It’s part of the game,” the league sophomore said after the match which they won 109-98. “I don’t wanna say anything, I’m sorry.

“It’s part of the game. Whatever move on. Not a big deal.”

Asked if he was motivated to face Ravena, whom he had shared three UAAP juniors titles, two UAAP seniors crowns, and a SEA Games gold medal with, the 24-year-old shared that he approached Friday’s bout the way he usually does.

“I wouldn’t say motivated [versus Kiefer], I mean, it’s just like any other game. When I play, I don’t see who’s guarding me, I just play,” said the 6-foot-2 swingman.

“I play to win all the time.”

The incident he and Ravena figured in shadowed his performance of 10 points on 50 percent shooting off the bench — the second time he had scored in double figures this season. After Friday, Pessumal is averaging 8.25 points.

“We have to sustain the level of excellence that they (starters) have. Our job is — I wouldn’t say support, but — when we get in, we should bring the level higher so when they come back, the game is easier for them,” he said.

Pessumal was then asked if he and Ravena met each other after the buzzer sounded as the two did not even shake hands after the contest. But, through a short yet strong response, the 24-year-old said that they did not.

“I wouldn’t say anything. I don’t know, after the game?,” he expressed.

“I’m a professional basketball player, I’m not here to make any friends.”

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