Just five days ago, the Phoenix Fuel Masters were on a high after securing a quarterfinals spot and contend for a top two spot. However, the Alaska Aces brought them back down in dominant fashion.
Two-time Philippine Cup runner-up Alaska did not let up for 48 minutes, taking a 106-85 wire-to-wire win to secure a a quarterfinals spot for the 13th conference in a row, Friday evening at the Cuneta Astrodome in Pasay City.
With the win, Alaska keeps pace with the TNT Katropa for the second spot with identical 6-4 slates. Phoenix, on the other hand, falls to 6-5 and are in danger of even crashing to the eighth spot.
“We needed this win badly. Now, we need the next game bad too,” Alaska head coach Alex Compton shared. “Six wins avoids us for seventh place.”
Vic Manuel paced the Aces with his consistent play in his 22 minutes of court time, scoring a game-high 21 points on 7-of-9 shooting from the field and 7-of-8 from the stripe to go along with seven rebounds and two blocks. League sophomore Kevin Racal added a career-high 20 points, seven coming in the final frame.
“It was a total team effort and it felt like everybody was involved. It felt like everybody contributed,” Compton added.
The unlikely duo of RJ Jazul and Jake Pascual helped in breaking the game wide-open in the second frame, combining for 17 second quarter points to help give Alaska an imposing 19 point lead entering the halftime break.
Jazul finished the game with 14 points while Pascual went 5-of-5 from the field for 10 markers. Alaska’s bench scored 64 points of their toal output.
“This game really meant a lot to us. I felt that there was a consistent sense of urgency for us,” the American mentor said.
Behind Matthew Wright, the Fuel Masters were able to cut the lead to as low as nine points, 58-67, early in the third frame. However, Phoenix could not get past that mark as the lead continued to balloon, reaching as high as 25 points with 1:51 left in the game.
“Obviously we made our shots and we defended a lot better. Us coaches, we will never be happy but the guys played really hard, except for the third quarter,” Compton shared.
Alaska was just more fluid on offense compared to Phoenix. The Aces were 52 percent from the field compared to just 38 percent for the Fuel Masters. Moreover, Alaska went to the line 33 times compared to a lowly 13 for Phoenix.
Wright paced Phoenix with 18 points and eight rebounds while veterans Willie Wilson and Cyrus Baguio chipped in 14 and 13 points respectively.
Alaska will face the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters in their last assignment for the round. The game will take place on Wednesday, February 1.
Alaska 106 – Manuel 21, Racal 20, Jazul 14, Racal 10, Hontiveros 9, Abueva 7, Casio 7, Thoss 6, Magat 4, Exciminiano 4, Cruz 2, Mendoza 2, Galliguez 0, Dela Cruz 0.
Phoenix 85 – Wright 18, W. Wilson 14, Baguio 13, Enciso 10, Borboran 8, Caperal 7, Intal 6, Alolino 3, J. Wilson 3, Torres 3, Hayes 0, Lanete 0, Miranda 0.
Quarterscores: 25-19, 60-42, 82-65, 106-85