After trailing by as many as 17 points earlier in the game, a late resurgence from the Alaska Aces saw the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters’ double-digit lead decimated in the third quarter, leading to an 87-80 victory for the Aces, Thursday night at the Mall of Asia Arena, in game one of the best-of-seven semifinals series.
The early first quarter saw an uncannily low-scoring game between the two usually trigger happy squads; Rain or Shine leading with a score of 7-6 at the halfway point of the period. Bolstered by a 7-2 run, the Elasto Painters managed to pull away with the lead, leading by as many as six, 14-8, after holding the Aces to a dismal two in three minutes of play. After forcing the Aces to another series of misfires in the last two minutes of the quarter, the Elasto Painters ended the quarter with a sizeable 21-14 advantage.
Following a 9-2 rally to start the quarter, Rain or Shine led by as many as double the Aces’ output, 30-15, in only three minutes of play. It was veteran big man Erik Menk who gave the Aces their first field goal of the quarter, sinking a lay-up to cut the lead to 30-17 at the 8:32 mark of the quarter. Sparked by Menk’s spirit amidst the deficit, the Aces later completed a 12-2 rally of their own to come within single digits, 37-29, with three minutes left on the clock. Powered by a late resurgence from Sonny Thoss, who had 10 points in the first half, the Aces managed to cut the lead to three, 41-38, with less than a minute left in the quarter. The half ended with Rain or Shine still ahead by three, 43-40.
The Aces returned to the court without the intensity they gathered in the late second quarter. They were held to a dismal one point in the first five minutes of the second half, as Rain or Shine meanwhile went on to lead by as many as nine points early in the third quarter. The Aces, however, mounted yet another resurgence later in the quarter, going on a 14-1 run capped by a breakaway three from RJ Jazul and a lay-up from Thoss to take their first taste of the lead since the first quarter, 57-53. The Aces stayed in the driver’s seat until the end of the quarter, eventually closing the period with a narrow 61-58 edge.
Continuing what would soon become a virtual game of runs, Rain or Shine managed to outgun Alaska in a shootout to start the fourth quarter, taking back the lead, 66-65, three minutes into the period. The back-and-forth affair went on for much of the remainder of the period, leading to the several deadlocks and lead changes. A 6-0 run helmed by Calvin Abueva saw the Aces pull away for an 83-77 cushion, a lead they held on to entering the final two minutes. Abueva, shortly after recovering from a bad fall, was able to sink two free throws off a foul from Rain or Shine’s Beau Belga to extend the lead to eight, 85-77, with around a minute and a half left on the clock, but the free throw charities were answered by a triple from Jonathan Uyloan on the other end to trim the lead to five, 85-80.
JVee Casio was able to extend the lead to seven with barely 50 seconds left on the clock, 87-80, following a sneaky lay-up. Gabe Norwood had the chance to trim the lead in the following possession after drawing a foul from Abueva, but missed both free throw shots. A couple more defensive stops from Alaska in the dying seconds sealed the deal.
Thoss led the Aces with 16 points and nine rebounds. Jeff Chan led the Elasto Painters with 17 points, seven rebounds, and five assists.
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