The Alaska Aces have completed the 2019 PBA Philippine Cup quarterfinals picture. They weathered a late NLEX Road Warriors surge, 88-80, in the match for the eighth and final playoff spot, Friday evening at the SM Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
The Aces have forged a duel with the top-seeded Phoenix Pulse Fuel Masters, who carry a twice-to-beat advantage. Alaska have an axe to grind with Phoenix after they absorbed an 80-94 loss to them in the eliminations last March 1.
“Parang second family ko na yan,” said Alaska head coach Alex Compton on Phoenix, who have plenty of former Aces from head coach Louie Alas, to manager Paolo Bugia, to players Jaypee Mendoza and Calvin Abueva.
Sonny Thoss turned back the hands of time, churning out 21 points on 10-of-14 shooting with five rebounds to lead Alaska. Meanwhile, Carl Bryan Cruz made 16 points built on three treys with three boards, two assists, two steals, and two blocks.
Simon Enciso produced 16 points as well, alongside six assists. Jvee Casio chimed in 13 markers and six boards.
The Aces took control of the match in the second quarter, limiting the Road Warriors to just eight points. They also scored 21 markers to turn a six-point lead to a wide 44-25 advantage at the break.
“Our defense was fantastic in the first half,” said Compton, as his chargers forced NLEX to commit 16 of their 22 turnovers in the first half alone.
Alaska would lead by as many as 28 points, 69-41, in the third chapter, but NLEX still fought back. Bong Galanza’s three-pointer lifted the Road Warriors to within just 10 points, 76-86, with 1:09 remaining in the game.
That, however, proved to be their last gasp. Cruz made a lay-up off a drive to widen the Aces’ lead to 12, 88-76, with 51.2 ticks left. Poy Erram and JR Quiñahan then made buckets later on but time wasn’t on NLEX’s side anymore.
Kenneth Ighalo had 16 points and nine rebounds to lead the Road Warriors. Galanza supplied 14 points, while Quiñahan produced 13 on 15 shots. Erram made 10 points and 19 rebounds, and added four assists, a steal, and a block.
The Alaska-Phoenix match will be on Sunday, April 7, still at the MoA Arena.
Alaska 88 – Thoss 21, Enciso 16, Cruz 16, Casio 13, Banchero 4, Baclao 4, Ayaay 4, Racal 3, Exciminiano 3, Teng 2, Potts 2, Pascual 0.
NLEX 80 – Ighalo 16, Galanza 14, Quinahan 13, Erram 10, Paniamogan 8, Magat 7, Rios 5, Baguio 3, Paredes 2, Tiongson 2, Taulava 0, Soyud 0, Tallo 0, Lao 0.
Quarterscores: 23-17, 44-25, 73-50, 88-80.
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