Alaska keeps their playoff hopes alive, coming out on top of a thrilling double-overtime match against Meralco, 108-103, at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
During the start of the contest, the two squads traded baskets. Following an 8-8 deadlock with around seven minutes left to play, the Aces steadily took control of the flow, with their big men baring their fangs in the paint. The last three minutes of the quarter saw Alaska embark on a 7-0 run to take a nine-point lead, 24-15. Meralco import Josh Davis ended the rally with a three-point play, and they came within six at the end of the quarter, 24-18.
There was no change of complexion in the game come the second quarter with the Aces outgunning the Bolts and scoring as they pleased. It was late in the period that Meralco found their much needed spark, when four straight points from import Josh Davis and a hook shot from veteran Danny Ildefonso put the Bolts within a single digit, 36-37. Alaska import Damion James sank two free throws to slow down the Meralco flurry and extended the lead to three, 39-36. The spotlight shone on the two imports for the next few possessions, who figured in a heated trade of baskets as the Bolts scrambled to take the lead. With less than fifteen seconds left on the clock, two free throws from Mike Cortez gave Meralco the lead, 44-43. Alaska’s Chris Exciminiano responded on the other end, beating the buzzer to give the lead back to Alaska, 45-44, just in time for the halftime break.
The Bolts welcomed the second half with six straight points to take an early 50-45 lead. Calvin Abueva and Chris Banchero responded with baskets of their own to force another deadlock, and kick off what would be another heated trade of baskets. The remainder of the quarter featured both squads locked in a trade of firepower with baskets sunk from everywhere around the arc. It was Alaska, who proved to be the quicker draw, pulling away shortly before the buzzer to lead by five, 72-67, thanks to baskets from their import James and the sharpshooter, RJ Jazul. Meralco’s Jared Dillinger later beat the buzzer to cut the lead to three, 72-69, at the end of the quarter.
The fourth quarter opened to a continuation of the previous quarter’s shootout, with shots falling from everywhere, and the lead changing possession after possession. Meralco looked geared to pull away around the halfway mark after baskets from Dillinger gave them an 82-76 edge, but the Aces recovered in time to close the gap. Two minutes later, the score was once again tied at 82-all.
With just under two minutes left, the score was still deadlocked at 85-85. Meralco was the first to break out of the deadlock, care of two free throws from Gary David at the 1:28 mark. Alaska’s Cyrus Baguio sank free throws of his own in the next possession, forcing another tie at 87-all. Neither team could score in the following possessions, and with 14.7 seconds left on the clock and the ball with Alaska, the score remained unchanged. Alaska went to their import James for what could have been the game winner, but was unable to put up the shot against his counterpart Davis. The game was headed for overtime.
Alaska sat in the driver’s seat for most of the extra five minutes, eventually establishing a 93-90 lead just before the last two minutes. A floater from James with just a minute left to play gave them a crucial five point, 95-90. James later fouled out at 47.3 mark after a behind-the-back foul on Meralco’s Cliff Hodge. A basket from Gary David later put Meralco within three, but the lead was back to two possessions shortly after, when Alaska’s Vic Manuel sank two free throws given after being fouled by John Wilson. With 36 ticks left, the Aces led 97-92. Import Davis was able to score on the possession to cut the lead to three with just 31 seconds left.
The next possession saw the Bolts force Alaska’s Cyrus Baguio to throw away the ball. It found its way to John Wilson, who pulled up for the quick three that knotted the game 97-all with just 0.7 seconds left on the clock. The ball went to Baguio for Alaska’s next possession, but the veteran sharpshooter couldn’t position himself right away to take the easy trey. Baguio’s bricked shot marked the arrival of another overtime period.
Alaska took a 101-99 lead heading into the final two minutes of the second overtime period, following a brief exchange of baskets. Despite being without their import on the floor, the Aces managed to put up a couple of big rebounds and big defensive stops. A basket from Calvin Abueva with just around a minute left extended the lead to four, 103-99. The Bolts also suffered another blow when Cliff Hodge had to be subbed out after his leg was accidentally stepped on by Alaska’s Sonny Thoss in the same sequence.
Meralco showed no sign of faltering, however, getting the right stops to come within one with 17.2 seconds left to play, 102-103, care of a basket from their import Davis. Free throws from Dondon Hontiveros extended the lead to 106-103 with 15.8 seconds left. The Bolts went to veteran sharpshooter, Gary David, who, unfortunately, bricked the trey taken with nine seconds left. The ball was rebounded by Hontiveros, who was fouled and easily sank the free throws awarded to him afterward. With time on their side, the Aces needed only to hold on for the final play.
Calvin Abueva was named Best Player of the Game with 18 points and 9 rebounds. Damion James led the scoring with 25 points along with 12 rebounds. Josh Davis led Meralco with 34 points. The Aces improve to 4-5, a slate shared with Barangay Ginebra, GlobalPort, and Kia. Meralco meanwhile, falls to tied-second place with Rain or Shine and Talk ‘N Text at the 6-3 mark.
Alaska – James 25, Abueva 18, Banchero 13, Baguio 12, Hontiveros 11, Manuel 11, Thoss 8, Jazul 7, Exciminiano 2
Meralco – Davis 34, Cortez 16, Wilson 15, Dillinger 13, Hodge 9, David 7, Anthony 3, Caram 2, Ildefonso 2, Hugnatan 2
Quarters: 24-18, 45-44, 72-69, 87-87, 97-97 (1OT) 108-103 (2OT)