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Alaska repels Star comeback to keep Aces on top



After a battle of two offensive teams, the Alaska Aces now sit atop the standings, together with the San Miguel Beermen, as they nipped the Star Hotshots in a thrilling 107-102 game at the Smart Araneta Coliseum to end Tuesday’s double-header.

From the get-go, the game was back and forth, as a shootout started with Star draining four early triples in the opening period. Despite that, Alaska’s transition game, led by their second unit of Vic Manuel and Calvin Abueva, kept the game close. The Aces took a solitary point advantage after one quarter, having shot a perfect 5/5 from the free throw line after twelve minutes.

There were ten lead changes in the second quarter alone as both teams exchanged a barrage of baskets. Alaska went to Sonny Thoss, who scored seven of the Aces’ first 13 points of the second quarter, taking the lead at 34-31 with 7:19 left. The reinsertion of Marc Pingris and James Yap aided the Hotshots to make the game close. However, Alaska broke a 44-all deadlock in the final minute, which included a triple by Jvee Casio and a breakaway jam by Manuel.

Within five minutes through the third canto, Alaska threatened to make the game ugly with a 14-7 start to the new half, including six unanswered points from turnovers committed by Star. The Hotshots made a fightback with Taha, Simon and Melton combining for the next eight points to make it a 64-62 deficit. Melton drained three triples in the period but it was Casio’s 15-point third quarter that overshadowed it and gave the Aces a 10-point cushion heading into the final quarter.

Eight points by James Yap was sufficient enough to once again trim the Aces’ lead down to two with 3:40 left in the game at 97-95. Alaska countered with a 6-2 run to make it a six point advantage with 46 seconds remaining. Afterwards, Pingris made an and-one play, while Casio travelled on the next possession. Yap missed two three-point attempts late that could have potentially tied the game, but Manuel missed his free throws on the Aces’ end. In a frantic ending, 50-50 balls went the way of the Aces, while their grit and hustle powered them to the win.

Alaska scored 11 more points from the foul stripe while draining 50% of their three pointers (8/16).

Casio led the way with a game-high 24 points and a perfect 4/4 shooting from downtown. Manuel and Abueva led the bench mob with a combined 30 points and 17 rebound effort.

For Star, Yap tallied 20 markers, eight rebounds, and two assists. Melton chipped in 18 points and two boards.

Star are now in a funk, having lost three straight games, and now stand at 2-5. They will next face the San Miguel Beermen on Saturday at the SM Mall of Asia Arena. For Alaska, their next opponents will be the NLEX Road Warriors on Friday, at the Big Dome.

The Scores:
Alaska (107) – Casio 24, Manuel 17, Baguio 14, Abueva 13, Thoss 12, Hontiveros 7, Jazul 5, Baclao 4, Dela Cruz 3, Dela Cruz 2, Menk 2, Exciminiano 0
Star (102) – Yap 20, Melton 18, Pingris 17, Sangalan 10, Simon 9, Barroca 8, Maliksi 7, Mallari 7, Taha 4, Pascual 2, Pascual 0, Alvarez 0
Quarterscores: 21-20, 50-46, 85-75, 107-102

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