Vic Manuel dashed the Magnolia Hotshots’ upset hopes, striking the dagger right into their hearts and sending the Alaska Aces to the 2018 Commissioner’s Cup semifinals, 89-78, Tuesday night at the SMART Araneta Coliseum.
The 6-foot-4 forward sank a pull-up jumper with 1:30 left to play to give Alaska a favorable 88-78 lead. That shot punctuated their mini 6-0 spurt in response to Magnolia’s rally from 16 points down in the fourth.
Manuel finished with a game-high 22 points to push his streak of scoring at least 20 points to 11 games. He shot 10-of-20 from the field, and he also collected nine rebounds, an assist, a steal, and a block in over 24 minutes.
“I missed the semis,” quipped Aces head coach Alex Compton, as Alaska will head into the semis for the first time in two years. “We usually had a good relationship with the semis, in Alaska… I’m just so happy to be back.”
The Hotshots had an upset brewing in the final frame, when they rose back from a 16-point deficit and closed within striking distance, 78-82, after back-to-back baskets by Jio Jalalon and Mark Barroca with 3:30 left.
But Alaska made sure that it would be Magnolia’s last gasp. Manuel lit and ended the Aces’ 6-0 run to restore order, 88-78, with 1:30 remaining in the game. Afterwards, the Hotshots couldn’t get things going.
Chris Banchero’s split free throws approaching the final minute served as the finishing touch.
Banchero finished with 14 points, four rebounds, and three assists. Import Diamon Simpson had 13 points and 15 rebounds with four dimes, four steals, and two blocks, while Sonny Thoss chipped in 11 markers and six boards.
Wayne Chism led the Hotshots with 20 points and 15 rebounds. Ian Sangalang was the only other Magnolia player to finish in double figures with 14 points, along with six caroms, two dimes, and two blocks off the bench.
Alaska will now wait for the winner of the TNT Katropa-San Miguel Beermen series. SMB leads series, 1-0.
Alaska 89 – Manuel 22, Banchero 14, Simpson 13, Thoss 11, Racal 10, Exciminiano 7, Enciso 4, Cruz 3, Casio 2, Teng 2, Baclao 1
Magnolia 78 – Chism 20, Sangalang 14, Barroca 9, Lee 8, Jalalon 8, Simon 6, Ramos 6, dela Rosa 5, Brondial 2, Herndon 2, Reavis 0, Melton 0
Quarterscores: 26-21, 46-43, 78-62, 89-78
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