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Alaska defuses late Ginebra surge in elimination round finale

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The Alaska Aces ended the elimination round on a high note, fending off a late resurgence from the Barangay Ginebra San Miguel, en route to the 104-98 victory on Wednesday night, at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Baskets from import Michael Dunigan gave Ginebra a 6-1 start, but Calvin Abueva and Dondon Hontiveros answered back on the other end to force a 6-all deadlock. Following a back-and-forth affair in the next few minutes, Ginebra pulled away with a 16-11 lead halfway through the quarter. the Aces, however, responded in spirited fashion, completing a 13-2 run to lead 24-18 just two minutes later. A flurry of outside shots extended the lead to ten, 29-19, with around two minutes left on the clock. Ginebra retorted with four unanswered points, and at the end of the quarter, Alaska led 29-23.

Dunigan and Josh Urbiztondo led Ginebra in reestablishing their foothold, collaborating for five unanswered points that brought the Gin Kings within striking distance, 32-33, early in the second. Alaska’s Chris Banchero, however, stymied the brewing rally with a layup on the other end. Powered by Damion James and Calvin Abueva, Alaska’s lead would only continue to blow up in the succeeding minutes. Furthermore, with around four minutes left on the clock, the Aces led by double digits once more, 48-37. The Aces allowed the Gin Kings to only seven more points in the last six minutes of the quarter, and entered halftime with a 52-39 lead.

Powered by frontcourt enforcers, Dunigan and Japeth Aguilar, Ginebra was able to cut the deficit of double digits, 49-56, three minutes into the third half. Though the Gin Kings had their offensive flow back intact, the Aces stayed ahead of the chase thanks to their import James, who continued to dominate in the painted area. Unable to find a way to stop the Aces from sinking shots where they please, the Gin Kings could only watch as the opposing side stayed one step ahead. Moreover, Alaska needed only to up the physicality to slow Ginebra down and prevent them from kicking off any more big runs. At the end of the quarter, the Aces led 78-69.

Alaska continued to pace the contest heading into the fourth, extending the lead to twelve early into the quarter. LA Tenorio rose to the occasion around the halfway mark, exploding for his first 10 points of the game, and helping the Gin Kings cut the lead to four, 85-89. In addition, a three-point play from Dunigan brought Ginebra within striking distance a minute later, 88-89. Ginebra, unfortunately, suffered a major blow to their campaign when Japeth Aguilar had to be taken out of the game after a bad fall after being fouled on the attack. Mac Baracael took the free throws that were supposed to be Aguilar’s, going to sink both to give Ginebra the lead, 90-89, with five minutes left on the clock.

The Aces, however, continued to outgun the Gin Kings in the ensuing back-and-forth affair, and later entered the last two minutes of the game with a 97-93 edge. A triple from Ginebra’s Baracael cut the lead to a single digit with a minute and a half left, 96-97. Two free throws and a fastbreak layup off a steal care of Calvin Abueva in the next two possessions extended Alaska lead to four, 100-96. With 29 ticks left on the clock, Baracael had the chance to give Ginebra a lease on life, but ended up wasting the shot. After drawing the foul from Ginebra, Alaska’s Damion James sank two free throws to pad the lead. With time on their side, the Aces later escaped with the victory.

Cyrus Baguio was named Best Player of the Game with 17 points from 7/8 field goal shooting along with 5 assists all off the bench. Damion James led the scoring with 29 points and 14 rebounds. Dunigan led the scoring for Ginebra with 32 points. Both Alaska and Ginebra finish at 5-6, with Alaska settling for the no.6 seed, and Ginebra settling for the no.8 seed, just enough to make the quarter finals.

The Scores:

Alaska (102) – James 29, Baguio 17, Abueva 16, Jazul 10, Hontiveros 9, Casio 5, Banchero 4, Exciminiano 4, Thoss 4, Manuel 2, Menk 2

BGSM (98) – Dunigan 32, Baracael 18, Aguilar 17, Tenorio 10, Urbiztondo 8, Slaughter 7, Caguioa 4, Monfort 2

Quarters: 29-23, 52-39, 78-69, 104-98

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