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Alaska ends Star’s season; heads to Governor’s Cup Finals

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As they have the entire series, the Alaska Aces surged in the second half and completed their sweep of the defending Governor’s Cup Champions, Star Hotshots, 82-77 in Game Three of their semifinals series at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Using a big lineup with no point guard, the Hotshots flustered the Alaska defense in the first half. “Big Game” James Yap scored 15 of his game-high 20 points in the opening half and led the Hotshots to a 46-37 advantage. Alaska’s offense also suffered with the tall Star lineup forcing a slow, deliberate pace with plenty of contested Alaska jumpers. The Aces had a solitary assist, while Star had 11 at the halftime break.

The Aces flipped the switch right away in the third period, rattling off a 12-2 run, highlighted by two Jvee Casio triples, and hijacking the lead, 49-48. Yusef Taha stumbled and bumbled on back-to-back layups, quickly giving momentum and the lead back to Alaska, 52-49, but Romeo Travis forced another tie, 52-52, after an and-1 putback play. From there, both teams traded share of the lead, until Star broke out in the last two minutes of the third canto. Alex Mallari notched seven points in a 9-0 Star run, which supplanted the Hotshots on top with a 65-58 lead heading into the payoff period.

The teams traded big play after big play to start off the final period with both defenses forcing each other into the dark corners of their offense. The Hotshots scored their last basket with 2:59 left on the clock after Marquis Blakely fished a basket, and a foul on a post-up play against Vic Manuel. Blakely missed the charity, but put Star ahead, 77-74. The Alaska defense, then, buckled down and coaxed contested shot after contested shot from the Hotshots, while also getting huge plays from Romeo Travis on the offensive end. Travis scored off a layup then drilled a triple in the following play that pulled Alaska ahead, 79-77, with 2:00 remaining. After both threw up bricks on multiple possesions, Travis found an open Vic Manuel on the right baseline for the game clinching jumper, 81-77, with 20 ticks left on the game clock, and forced Star into their final timeout. Blakely missed on a last ditch drive attempt, then Jvee Casio split his free throws, securing the win for the Aces.

Ohio native, Romeo Travis led the Aces with 19 points, 11 rebounds, and seven assists while rookie Rome Dela Rosa scored six points in the opening qurter and finished with 11 points, three steals.

The Aces clinched their second finals appearance this season, after losing to San Miguel in the All-Filipino Cup Finals in seven games. They await the winner of the Rain or Shine – San Miguel series, who are currently locked in a 1-1 tie in their own Best-of-Five series.

The Scores

Alaska (82) – Travis 19, Manuel 14, Baguio 11, Dela Rosa 11, Casio 9, Banchero 5, Abueva 5, Thoss 4, Hontiveros 4

SMB (77) – Yap 20, Blakely 15, Mallari 9, Pingris 8, Devance 8, Taha 6, Barroca 5, Reavis 4, Simon 2

Quarters: 16-23, 37-46, 60-65, 82-77

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Miguel Luis Flores fell face first into sports writing in high sch9l and has never gotten up. He reluctantly stumbled into the volleyball beat when he started with Tiebreaker Times three years ago. Now, he has waded through everything volleyball - from its icky politics to the post-modern art that is Jia Morado's setting.

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