Last year’s bridesmaid finishers are now just one win away from getting their revenge.
With the game hanging in the balance in the last stretch, RJ Jazul knocked down two timely shots to lift the Alaska Aces late, 82-75, and more importantly, improve to a 3-0 finals series lead against the San Miguel Beermen at the Quezon Convention Center in Lucena on Friday night.
Alaska looked to pound the Beermen early on with their 16-4 start in the first seven minutes of the match. Cyrus Baguio waxed hot in the opening frame with back-to-back threes to propel the Aces to their fast start. However, SMB responded with a 9-0 blast in the middle of the quarter, but they had seven turnovers that gave Alaska a slim 20-17 lead.
Notwithstanding the slow start, the bench unit of San Miguel finally broke out, continuing the run and tying the match at 27. They eventually took the lead with 7:30 to play in the second through a Ryan Araña triple. JR Reyes also contributed well, as the center poured 10 points in the half. The Beermen mounted a 24-11 rampage in the second period, giving them a 41-31 advantage at the break.
San Miguel opened the new half with a couple of bad passes that led to two quick layups for the Aces. The game also slowed down despite the frantic pace. Chris Banchero and Cyrus Baguio combined to power the Aces’ run, while a three-pointer by Cyrus Baguio tied things up at 53 with 1:12 to go. The Aces eventually outscored the Beermen 24-17, to trim the lead to three heading into the fourth.
Reyes was thrown out of the match at the 9:32 of the game after being assessed for a flagrant foul on a rebound play against Vic Manuel. Afterwards, Alaska kept in step and made it a back-and-forth affair against the defending champs. After a see-saw game that put the Beermen up 75-74 due to a gorgeous inbound backdoor play, Alaska countered with RJ Jazul’s clutch hits. The Beermen failed to score on the next plays, giving Alaska the needed stops. Sonny Thoss converted on the game-sealing free throws.
Alaska once again won the rebounding department, 49-44. They also had more points in the paint, 44-36, while maintaining a 40% clip throughout the match.
Manuel had another splendid outing for the third consecutive game, leading his Alaska squad with 17 points and seven rebounds. After the game, he pointed out their miscues in the early goings and how they got it together late.
“Medyo bad start kami. Na-rattle kami and di kami maka-execute at wala yung communication,” the Muscle Man said after the game. “So pinakinggan lang namin sabi ni coach nung second half kasi hindi daw kami naglaro nung first half. Parang nag ‘me not we kami’.”
In addition, the forward mentioned that it’s not yet over and they still have to grind it out. ”Sa Sunday, di pa rin kami naniniwala(champion already) pero pagtatrabahuhan namin yan,” Manuel said.
JR Reyes paced the Beermen, who now have their backs against the wall, with 13 points and seven rebounds. Arwind Santos remained cold with only nine points on 3/17 shooting and missing nine heaves from downtown.
Alaska will look to wrap this series up on Game Four. The game will be played at the PhilSports Arena in Pasig City on Sunday, January 24.
Alaska (82) – Manuel 17, Abueva 13, Thoss 12, Baguio 11, Banchero 7, Baclao 6, Jazul 6, Menk 5, Casio 4, Dela Rosa 1, Hontiveros 0, Dela Cruz 0, Exciminiano 0.
San Miguel Beer (75) – Reyes 13, Tubid 10, Arana 9, Santos 9, Cabagnot 9, Lassiter 8, Espinas 8, Lutz 4, Ross 3, De Ocampo 2.
Quarterscores: 20-17, 31-41, 55-58, 82-75.
Videos courtesy of Sports5
Photo from PBA Images