In a game that was supposedly scheduled to be played in Polomok South Cotabato, the Alaska Aces notched in first win of the conference with a thrilling 96-95 win against the NLEX Road Warriors held at the Filoil Arena in San Juan.
DJ Covington was silent in the first 15 minutes of the game as he was nursing from foul trouble with two fouls called on him during the opening quarter.
Alaska led the majority of the opening half as they held on to a small lead throughout the first and second period. A triple from Niño Canaleta gave NLEX the lead momentarily, but the return of Covington from the bench triggered an Alaska rally to once again regain the edge. Covington’s presence made it hard for the Road Warriors to score and the locals stepped up for the Philippine Cup bridesmaid finishers in terms of offense and head to the locker rooms at the half up by eight.
Alaska built a double digit lead with a fastbreak layup from Vic Manuel. Riding on the momentum, the lead grew to as high as 13 during the third quarter 67-54 capped by back to back triples from Cyrus Baguio and RJ Jazul. After a ceasefire by NLEX, Al Thornton made his presence felt as he scored on a quick 7-0 run which included a contested triple and two made free throws. Looking to push the comeback, KG Canaleta drained in two more triples for the Road Warriors to help NLEX enter the last quarter only down by two.
The fourth quarter showcased a running start as both teams settled for quick offense but the other team’s defense was also present to counter. Scoring was slow as both teams only managed to score a quiet six-point effort combined during the first four minutes of the canto. Rudy Lingganay found a wide-open Mark Borboran to execute an excellent play off a timeout. After an ensuing stop, Borboran once again scored on a spin move to tie things up at 82.
With five minutes to go and trailing by three, Lingganay knocked down another triple for another deadlock. After the play, both teams exchanged baskets as the see-saw tight payoff period continued until the last moments.
Down by four, Thornton nailed in a triple to beat the shot clock but Calvin Abueva quickly countered with his own and-one play in a fastbreak attempt. After a series of defensive stops, Alaska found themselves up by one but Covington missed a potential thunderous jam and Dondon Hontiveros failed to convert on a triple off a second chance tip. With four ticks left and after multiple timeouts, Thornton drove to the basket but a triple team by Alaska forced the reinforcement to lose footing and throw a one-hander airball to seal the deal for the Aces.
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