Revenge is sweet. The Alaska Aces avenged their loss in the Philippine Cup finals against the San Miguel Beermen, edging out the previous conference’s champions 107-100 Tuesday evening at the Araneta Coliseum.
Ronald Roberts’ six early points powered San Miguel to a 13-3 lead halfway through the first quarter, but the Aces responded with a flurry initiated by DJ Covington and Cyrus Baguio to come within three, 15-18, with just two minutes left on the clock. The sweet-shooting Beermen however pulled away just before the Aces could strike, riding on a 9-4 run to exit the quarter on top, 27-19.
Though the Beermen were able to extend the lead to nine, 30-21, in the opening minutes of the second period, a flashy bucket from Chris Banchero sparked the Aces to a 9-0 run, forcing a 30-30 deadlock with nine minutes left on the clock. Consecutive fastbreak layups off nifty assists care of Calvin Abueva pushed the run to 16-0 to give the Aces the 36-30 lead just a minute later. Amid rising tensions on the court, the Aces held on to the lead for the next few minutes of play. The last two minutes of the quarter however saw the Beermen mount a brief run to retake the lead, 47-46, after free throws by Marcio Lassiter. They led by a thread at the half, 50-49.
The second half opened to a trade of baskets between the two squads, with the bigmen and imports showcasing their talents and taking charge for their respective squads. Putting on the right defensive stops and dominating at the rim, the Beermen held on to the lead for most of the period. At the end of an intense and physical twelve minutes, the lead was still with San Miguel, 78-76, despite a fiery display by Alaska’s Abueva.
A trey by Dondon Hontiveros and a hook shot by Vic Manuel to open the fourth gave Alaska the lead, 81-78, early in the period. Though they managed to protect the steady lead for the next minutes of play, import Covington’s foul troubles forced them to go with smaller personnel in the paint. But a couple of big misses and turnovers kept the Beermen from trimming the gap, and with two minutes left on the clock, the Aces still led 98-91.
With 1:43 left in regulation, a nifty floater from Banchero- who led the scoring for Alaska in the fourth quarter- pushed the lead to nine, 100-91, the Aces’ biggest lead in the game thus far. Looking to protect the lead, the Aces put on another tough defensive display, contesting every San Miguel possession.
Alaska and San Miguel faced each other in the Philippine Cup finals last month, which ended in a nailbiting seventh game where San Miguel emerged as the victor. The Beermen however kept their composure and trimmed the lead to four, 97-101, with less than a minute remaining. Two free throws by Hontiveros extended the lead to six, but with 27 ticks left on the clock, Chris Lutz gave San Miguel a lease on life with an open trey to cut the lead to three, 100-103. Free throws from Hontiveros extended the Alaska lead anew, with San Miguel missing every on every opportunity to close the gap. At the buzzer, the Aces’ revenge was complete.
Banchero was named Best Player of the Game with 14 points, 7 rebounds, and 5 assists. Roberts led SMB with 24 points and 14 rebounds. Alaska, who lost to San Miguel in the Philippine Cup finals last month, improves to 2-2. San Miguel meanwhile remains at the bottom of the standings at a dismal 0-4.
Covington 20, Hontiveros 17, Banchero 14, Abueva 12, Baguio 10, Espinas 8, Menk 8, Exciminiano 7, Manuel 6, Jazul 5
Roberts 24, Fajardo 21, Lassiter 18, Lutz 15, Ross 9, Tubid 6, Santos 4, Fortuna 3