The lead in the best-of-seven semifinals is back with the Alaska Aces, who climbed all the way from a 19-point hole in the second quarter to outgun the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters in a heated second half struggle that resulted in a 93-88 victory for the Aces, Saturday evening at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Rain or Shine enjoyed a hot start in the first quarter, leading by as many as nine, 18-9, at the halfway point of the period. The Elasto Painters continued to pace the contest for the remainder of the quarter, with a triple from JR Quinahan shortly before the buzzer, giving them their first double-digit lead of the game, 29-18, just before the end of the opening period. Despite their remarkable first quarter performance, Rain or Shine faced uncertainty in the form of Jeff Chan, the architect of Rain or Shine’s Christmas Day comeback, who had to be sidelined after complaining of pain in his legs. He eventually entered the court late in the second quarter.
Completing a 13-0 run that started in the closing minutes of the first quarter, the Elasto Painters led by as many as 19, 37-18, early in the second quarter. The Aces however responded in kind by completing an 11-0 run capped by a fastbreak floater and a free throw from Calvin Abueva to cut the deficit to seven, 30-37, with a little less than six minutes left on the clock. After keeping Rain or Shine scoreless for two whole minutes of play, a triple from Chris Banchero followed by a fastbreak off the steal from Vic Manuel trimmed the deficit to two, 35-37, with just four minutes left on the clock. The RoS cold spell was broken at the 3:35 mark by a Beau Belga triple to extend the lead to five. The Elasto Painters managed to extend the lead anew in the last two minutes of the period, and at the half Rain or Shine led by six, 47-41.
Rain or Shine held on to the narrow lead for most of the early third quarter, but a 6-0 spurt capped by free throws from Cyrus Baguio pushed Alaska to the 55-all deadlock with around six minutes left on the clock. A fastbreak layup off the steal by Chris Exciminiano gave the Aces their first taste of the least, 58-56, at the 5:50 mark of the period. The Aces stayed in the driver’s seat for the remainder of the quarter, eventually taking a 76-67 lead to close the period, thanks to a buzzer-beating trey by Dondon Hontiveros that put the icing on the cake for their spectacular turnaround in the period.
The early fourth quarter marked a reversal of roles, as it was Alaska’s turn to pace the game and easily stifle any run mounted by the Elasto Painters, who came within the three-point range several times but could not so much as force a deadlock. Entering the final two minutes, the Aces led by five, 90-85, and a floater from Baguio extended the lead to seven, 92-85, but Paul Lee answered with a three-point play on the other end to cut down the deficit to four, 92-88, with a minute and a half left on the clock. The score remained unchanged for the next few possessions, with Alaska holding on to the ball entering the last 30 seconds following a big offensive rebound by Abueva. They were unable to score in the following possession however, giving Lee a chance to give Rain or Shine a lease on life with 10 seconds on the clock, but he could not get the fastbreak layup to fall. The Aces later walked away with the win.
Sonny Thoss was awarded Player of the Game honors with 13 points, eight rebounds, and two blocks. The Aces now lead the series 3-2. The series will resume action in the first week of January.