It was seventh heaven for the Alaska Aces as they defeated cellar dwellers Meralco Bolts 88-86 in the Smart Bro PBA Philippine Cup at the MOA Arena.
The game was a case of seesaw Basketball but Alaska pulled through in the end because of their decisive end game poise.
A Cyrus Baguio trey capped off a 7-0 run by Alaska at the start of the first quarter. Likewise, Meralco had an 8-0 run of their own and they swung the lead towards them courtesy of a Chris Newsome drive to give the Bolts their first taste of the lead a 10-12. Meralco’s Jared Dillinger later drove to the rim to level the scores at 16-16.
Dillinger once again attacked Alaska’s defense and scored two free throws later in the quarter to give Meralco some leverage over Alaska 24-18. Meralco finished the first quarter ahead of Alaska 21-24.
Ryan Buenafe increased Meralco’s lead to 27-21 at the start of the second quarter. Cliff Hodge then slammed it home to give Meralco their biggest lead at 21-29. Alaska finally scored in the second quarter via a trey from Dondon Hontiveros to trim the deficit to five. Sonny Thoss and Eric Menk scored four straight points to turn the deficit into a solitary point but Rabeh Al-Hussaini responded to give Meralco a 28-31 edge.
Alaska then clinched the lead, 38-35, in the second quarter for the first time with a Baguio basket and two free throws from Chris Banchero. Defensive stops from Alaska enabled them to enter halftime with a 42-37 edge over Meralco.
Al-Hussaini sunk his free throws to slice Alaska’s lead to 43-45 in what was a slow paced third quarter. Dillinger then equalized the ball game at 45-all. However, a 7-2 run in favor of Alaska restored their five point lead at 52-47. Alaska never really seized control of the game and allowed Hodge to trim the Aces’ lead to 52-54. Meralco then regained the lead with a three point play from Hodge. Meralco ended the third quarter on top 55-54.
Both teams repelled each other early in the fourth quarter as a Buenafe jumper was rebuffed by a Hontiveros shot from downtown, the score was tied, 57-57. Afterwards, two straight breakaway baskets from Hodge and Buenafe gave Meralco a 57-63 lead. Another trey by Hontiveros finished off an 11-0 swing for Alaska, which brought them back the lead at 68-63. Jvee Casio then scored a trey to give Alaska their biggest lead of the game at 73-63.
Meralco kept themselves within Alaska’s range with free throws from Jimmy Alapag and a move in the paint from Hodge trimmed the Aces’ edge to four. Alapag aced another pair of free throws and Meralco was just behind 78-80. With a Banchero free throw, Alaska led 81-78 but a Hodge clutch trey leveled the scores. Nonetheless, Alaska had a clutch trey themselves courtesy of RJ Jazul. Alaska led the fourth quarter 84-81 with thirty seconds to go.
Jazul sunk a free throw and Dillinger scored off a jumpshot which resulted to Alaska’s precarious 85-83 lead. Banchero and Jazul were then sent to the free throw line and their freebies sealed the win for Alaska, 88-86.
Banchero and Manuel scored 13 points each with the latter a rebound away from a double-double. As for Meralco, Hodge made 25 points and 13 rebounds followed by Dillinger who scored 15 markers.
Interestingly, Meralco scored 42 points in the paint compared to Alaska’s 34. In addition to that, Alaska produced 22 fast break points compared to Meralco’s 20.
The result kept Alaska (7-1) in the race for the outright semis berth against fellow chasers Rain or Shine Elasto Painters and San Miguel Beermen. On the other hand, Meralco suffered their eighth loss this conference and their post-season chances are lessened by the day.
Alaska shall face Rain or Shine on December 11, 2015 (Friday, 7:00PM) at the Smart Araneta Coliseum while up next for Meralco is the GlobalPort Batang Pier on December 9, 2015 (Wednesday, 4:15PM) at the Cuneta Astrodome.
Alaska 88 – Banchero 13, Manuel 13, Casio 12, Hontiveros 11, Jazul 11, Baguio 9, Abueva 4, Menk 4, Baclao 1, Dela Cruz 0, Exciminiano 0.
Meralco 86 – Hodge 25, Dillinger 15, Al-Hussaini 10, Buenafe 9, Alapag 8, David 4, Hugnatan 4, Nabong 4, Newsome 4, Ferriols 2, Amer 1, Faundo 0.
Quarters: 21-24, 42-37, 54-55, 88-86
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