Suddenly, we’ve got ourselves a series.
For the second straight game, the Alaska Aces kept any championship celebration at a halt, as they came up with an 86-78 victory in Game 5 of their Finals series against the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters, Sunday night at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Alaska started strong but failed to capitalize on an early nine-point lead in the opening minutes of the game. Jeff Chan and JR Quiñahan led a scoring run, which also silenced the Aces for a 5-minute stretch in the first canto. A 17-4 close-out berserk by the Elasto Painters, in which majority came from the paint, gave Rain or Shine a 19-15 lead.
The slow-paced match carried on the second period on a defensive-themed battle. Rain or Shine led by as much as five during the second quarter, but Alaska’s bench led the fightback. The Aces’ Kevin Racal, Calvin Abueva, and Noy Baclao lifted their squad to snatch a momentary 37-34 edge. However, Jericho Cruz and Jewel Ponferada, in addition to a couple of stops in the latter stretch of the first half, propelled the Painters to a 6-0 close-out prior the break.
Beau Belga asserted himself at the offensive end, scoring back-to-back shots in the middle of the quarter to pull the lead up to seven. However, an unsportsmanlike foul by half of the ‘Extra Rice’ duo on his series rival Calvin Abueva sparked an Alaska run. Cyrus Baguio and RJ Jazul were primarily responsible for restoring a 54-53 advantage for Alaska with 3 minutes left in the third. Unfortunately for them, the Painters were still able to grab a solitary point lead heading into the final quarter.
Despite a closely-contested start to the last frame, Pierre Henderson-Niles made back-to-back costly errors in the quarter. He fouled a driving Dondon Hontiveros, who converted for a three-point play, and made a poor pass on their next possession. This opened up a seven-point advantage, 76-69, by Alaska with four minutes left.
Alaska shrugged off two straight layups by Rain or Shine by converting their foul shots, which maintained the lead down the stretch. Calvin Abueva also made two crucial hits to answer a JR Quiñahan triple that extended the gap to eight points and sealed the deal.
“Bago ‘to, down 0-3 kami, and ngayon lang talaga kami nakaka-recover,” said Abueva after strong 20 point, 13 rebound, two block outing. “Buti ngayon nakaka build up na kami. Limit lang talaga namin shooters nila, defense and dapat mas ma hustle kami next game.”
Four more Aces scored in double-figures, followed by Rob Dozier’s 14 markers, three steals and eight rebounds. As for Rain or Shine, Jeff Chan put up 17 points on 7 for 11 shooting.
Rain or Shine dominated the paint scoring, 42-32. However, Alaska shot 26 for 45 (57%) from the 2-point area, and were 23 for 27 from the foul stripe, a plus-15 scoring at the free throw department.
For the third straight time, Alaska look to extend the series to a penultimate seventh game, while Rain or Shine seek to close it out again.
Game Six of the series will be on Wednesday, 7:00pm still at the Big Dome.
Alaska (86) – Abueva 20, Dozier 14, Jazul 13, Hontiveros 12, Baguio 11, Banchero 6, Racal 5, Thoss 2, Baclao 2, Dela Rosa 1.
Rain or Shine (78) – Chan 17, Lee 16, Quinahan 9, Cruz 8, Ponferada 8, Henderson-Niles 6, Norwood 5, Belga 4, Ibanes 2, Almazan 2, Ahanmisi 1.
Quarterscores: 15-19, 37-40, 56-57, 86-78.