The Alaska Aces used a 26-15 fourth quarter to come back and stun the Meralco Bolts, 97-94 in Game 1 of their best-of-five PBA Commissioner’s Cup semifinals series Monday night at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
Meralco first used an 11-4 run to end the third quarter and build a sizable 79-71 cushion. The Bolts had led by as much as 53-43 early in the same period although the Aces stormed back immediately after going in an 11-1 blast.
Later in the payoff period, the Aces rallied back behind Dondon Hontiveros and Chris Banchero, whose lay-up in transition knotted the count at 84 apiece.
A three-point play conversion by RJ Jazul broke the deadlock and gave the Aces an 87-84 lead. Cliff Hodge responded with a triple later on but Calvin Abueva made a dribble pull-up which made it 95-91 with over two minutes left in regulation.
Three straight foul shots from the Bolts–one from Jared Dillinger and two from Reynel Hugnatan to cut the deficit down to just 95-94 with 32.8 seconds to go, but Cyrus Baguio converted on two more charities in the next possession to push the Alaska lead up to 97-94.
The Bolts called a timeout but turned the ball over in the next possession as Jimmy Alapag’s pass was too strong for Cliff Hodge to handle, leaving 5.1 seconds on the clock.
Rob Dozier, however, missed two free throws which left the door open for the Bolts with three seconds left, but Ronjay Buenafe failed to hit a long range shot in the final play which allowed Alaska to escape.
“They (Meralco) made some big shots. I am just proud of our guys we weathered it. This is one of the toughest teams in the league. We have to be tough physically and mentally to win this series. We eked it out. Glad to come away with the win,” Aces head coach Alex Compton said.
“We are one step closer but they are going to come back tough.”
Jazul led four Aces in double-digits with 18 points on 6-for-9 shooting, while Abueva contributed 13 points, six rebounds, and three assists.
Hugnatan led Meralco with 21 markers, six boards, and dished out four dimes. Hodge added 14 points on 50 percent shooting while four others finished with 11 points or more.
Alaska (97) – Jazul 18, Abueva 15, Baguio 13, Banchero 10, Exciminiano 9, Dozier 7, Menk 7, Baclao 6, Hontiveros 6, Thoss 4, Dela Cruz 2, Dela Rosa 0.
Meralco (94) – Hugnatan 21, Hodge 14, Dillinger 12, Caram 11, Onuaku 11, Faundo 8, Newsome 7, Bono 6, Alapag 2, Amer 2, Buenafe 0.
Quarterscores: 26-23; 43-48; 71-79; 97-94.