The Alaska Aces have a 1-0 lead in their best-of-seven series with the San Miguel Beermen, erasing the haunting memory of a five-point first quarter performance before trouncing their old rivals in overtime en route to an 88-82 Game 1 victory, Wednesday night at the Araneta Coliseum.
Dominating on both ends of the court, the Beermen opened the first quarter with an 11-2 rally to take control of the game. Capitalizing on their hot start, the Beermen went on a 16-0 run in the later half of the quarter to eventually close out the quarter with a staggering 27-5 lead. The Aces were scoreless for the last seven minutes, after managing to sink a dismal two out of 19 field goal attempts in the quarter.
The Aces showed some signs of life early in the second quarter, cutting the lead to 11, 29-18, after
completing a 13-2 rally capped by a triple from Dondon Hontiveros to open the period. A basket from Chris Exciminiano pushed the Aces to within single digits, 29-20, but Marcio Lassiter answered back on the other end to extend the lead to double digits anew, 32-20. Despite Alaska’s renewed vigor, the Beermen continued to stay ahead of the chase, and at the half, the lead remained in double digits, 45-31. Alaska’s push finally bore fruit late in the quarter, as they managed to come within four, 46-50, thanks to a corner triple from Hontiveros with just around three minutes left on the clock. Alex Cabagnot immediately mailed San Miguel’s response, sinking a three of his own to push the lead back to seven. Amidst flaring tempers in the last few minutes, the Beermen managed to hold the fort and hold on to the lead to end the third, 54-49.
The Aces finally came within striking distance three minutes into the final period, after a lay-up from
Chris Banchero cut the lead to a mere two points, 53-55. Arwind Santos however responded with a
triple on the other end to extend the lead to five, 58-53. Following a couple of big baskets from
Banchero and Vic Manuel, the Aces kept it close for the next few possessions, and
after coming within two, 60-62, a triple from RJ Jazul gave the Aces their first taste of the lead with six
and half minutes left on the clock, 63-62. The Beermen however proved to be the quicker draw in
the ensuing shootout, as they entered the last two minutes with a narrow 73-72 lead.
It was Hontiveros who once more kept the light alive for Alaska, sinking an open jumper from
mid-range to give the Aces the lead, 74-73, with 40 seconds left on the clock. The next possession
was wasted by the Beermen, who, after finding themselves crowded underneath the
rim, missed a series of inside shots, before Calvin Abueva finally corralled the balled for the Alaska
with just 19.3 ticks left on the clock. Following a spirited timeout huddle, Chris Ross managed to
put the pressure on JVee Casio following the inbound pass to force a deadlock with 13.5 left in the quarter. The ball wound up in the hands of San Miguel’s June Mar Fajardo, who after being fouled by
Abueva, split two free throw charities to tie the ballgame with eight seconds left. What
seemed like the final sequence of the ball game saw Casio miss the jumper that could have saved the
game, and San Miguel’s Chris Lutz flinging a premature hail mary off the rebound that saw the ball go
out of bounds and back in Alaska’s hands with 1.2 seconds left. Hontiveros, the Aces’ go-to sharpshooter
had the chance to nail the game winner, but was unable to sink the triple off the inbound pass, sending
the game into overtime.
Following back-to-back treys from Casio and Hontiveros, the Aces found themselves with
their biggest lead of the ballgame at the 2:21 mark of overtime. A couple more defensive stops kept
the Aces ahead of the chase, and with 40 ticks left on the clock, they led 84-79. The next few plays
saw San Miguel’s Arwind Santos and Cabagnot miss crucial shots, and at the buzzer, it was the team
with the five-point first quarter output who walked away with the win.
Abueva took home Player of the Game honors following a 22-point, 10-rebound performance.
Lutz led the Beermen with 24 points. Game 2 will take place Friday night at the Araneta Coliseum.
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