The Alaska Aces are 2-1 in their best-of-seven semifinal with the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters, following a 94-78 victory, Monday night at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Calvin Abueva had 28 points and 14 rebounds for the Aces, whose defensive pressure forced the Elasto Painters to spotty shooting throughout the game.
The Elasto Painters played most of the second half without head coach Yeng Guiao and big man Beau Belga, as both were sent off the court after incurring two technical fouls.
The early first quarter saw the two belligerents trade baskets and leads, with neither looking geared enough to pull away from the other. The Aces however embarked on a 14-2 run later in the quarter, resulting in the Aces closing out the opening period with a 24-12 lead. The Elasto Painters were held to only two points in the last four minutes of the period.
Amidst a heated second quarter that saw a couple of hard fouls here and there, the Aces continued to force the Elasto Painters to misfire, keeping their lead at double digits throughout the quarter. At the half, the Aces led 42-27. The trigger-happy Rain or Shine was held to an incredibly dismal 10-of-41 from the field, scoreless from beyond the arc despite fourteen three-point attempts in the first half. Despite the 16-point lead and 36.4 % field goal shooting, the Aces, themselves a team laden with sharpshooters, also found nothing but futility at the three-point line, having bricked all 10 of their attempts from beyond the arc.
Powered by a couple of big baskets from Paul Lee, the Elasto Painters finally came within single digits for the first time since the first quarter, 36-44, with nine and a half minutes left in the third period. A few possessions after the triple from Lee that cut the lead to eight, Rain or Shine head coach Guiao was slapped with his second technical foul of the game, after excessively complaining about a hard foul on Lee. Guiao was immediately asked to move to the dugout. The Elasto Painters’ resurgence suffered another setback later at the 5:13 mark, when enforcer Belga was also slapped with a second technical foul in the game, sending him off the court to join his coach. At the end of the period, the Aces led by eight, 65-57.
Though the Elasto Painters finally found their touch from the outside in the early fourth quarter, every attempt to mount their much-needed run was stifled by the Aces, who easily responded to every basket sunk by Rain or Shine. With around four minutes left on the clock, JVee Casio brought the lead back to 13, 83-70, giving the Aces their biggest lead since Rain or Shine’s third quarter surge. A triple from Abueva to extend the lead to 16, 90-74, just at the two-minute mark of the quarter proved to be the final nail in the coffin, as the Aces walked away with the win.
Raymond Almazan led the Elasto Painters in scoring with 20 points off the bench. Game four will take place on Christmas Day, December 25.