The Alaska Aces completed one of the most impressive comebacks in the season so far, erasing a six-point NLEX Road Warriors lead in the final two minutes of the fourth quarter to take their eighth victory and hold on to the no. 1 spot in the standings, 90-84, Friday evening at the Araneta Coliseum.
Alaska opened the first quarter on a high note, dominating on both ends of the court to take a 12-3 lead to start its campaign. The Aces continued to pace the competition for the remainder of the quarter, leading by as many as ten points, eventually exiting the quarter with a 23-15 lead over the Road Warriors.
The Road Warriors managed to trim the lead to as little as four early in the quarter, but Alaska was able to fire back to pull away once more. Back-to-back triples from Jonas Villanueva and Mark
Borboran later in the quarter gave NLEX its first taste of the lead since the opening minute of the game, 39-37, with two minutes left on the clock. They closed out the quarter holding on to the lead, 42-40.
Capitalizing on the Aces’ stagnating offense, the Road Warriors opened the third quarter with a 14-1 run to lead by as many as 15, 56-41, at the halfway mark of the quarter. The Aces finally reawakened in the later half of the period. Led by their secondary unit, the Aces embarked on a 12-0 rally to trim the Road Warriors’ lead to a manageable three points, 55-58. The Road Warriors however managed to hold the fort and the lead at the end of the quarter, 58-55.
The Aces forced the first deadlock of the game early in the quarter at 64-64 all, but the Road Warriors proved to be the quicker draw in the ensuing shootout to pull away once more. Entering the final two minutes, NLEX led by a sizeable 82-76, but a Dondon Hontiveros four-point play and a JVee Casio jumper saw the lead trimmed to another deadlock in the blink of an eye, 82-82 with a minute and a half left on the clock.
A Sonny Thoss floater with 47.2 seconds remaining gave the lead back to Alaska, 84-82. Villanueva tried to fire back on the other end to retake the lead, but missed on the attempt. Calvin Abueva sunk two free-throws after being fouled while corralling the miss to give the Aces the two-possession lead with 20.6 left in the quarter, 86-82. Abueva however dealt the Road Warriors another blow in the next possession, stealing the ball during the inbound pass. Two successful free-throws from Cyrus Baguio after drawing the foul extended the lead and sealed the victory for Alaska.
Hontiveros took home Player of the Game honors with 21 points for the Aces, built on 5/9 shooting from the three-point line. As of this writing, the Aces hold on to the no. 1 spot after improving to 8-1. NLEX meanwhile slides to 3-6 after losing its second straight game.