After losing their 2019 PBA Philippine Cup opener at the hands of the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters, the Alaska Aces have now racked up back-to-back wins. They eked out a 103-101 victory over the Blackwater Elite, Wednesday at SM Mall of Asia Arena.
Baskets by Chris Banchero and Sonny Thoss – plus a Roi Sumang miss from the foul line and an Allein Maliksi turnover, all inside the final 1:04 – were enough to collect the victory and send the Elite to their fourth consecutive defeat.
The Aces improved to 2-1 while dragging the Elite to 1-6.
“Sonny Thoss won the game,” said Compton of Thoss, who had 16 points and five rebounds. “I told you last game (versus Columbian Dyip) was the best game I’ve seen him play in a long time, and he only scored four points.
“Coaches are less concerned about points and more concerned about how you play. He played the right way. He played the right way again. And his level of activity tonight was tremendous,” he added.
Still without their main guys, the young guns continued to shine for the Milkmen. Sophomore Jeron Teng and third-year Carl Bryan Cruz were at the forefront of their attack with 18 points apiece, on a combined 12-of-22 field goal shooting.
Chris Banchero was back to his old ways, as he produced 11 points and a season-high 16 assists against just two errors.
The Aces did face a three-point deficit with 2:15 left in the game after James Sena went perfect from the foul line. But guard Ping Exciminiano and Cruz connived to give Alaska a 99-97 lead with 1:28 on the clock.
Allein Maliksi then hit a three-pointer to give the lead back to the Elite, 100-99, just 13 seconds later.
However, that was the last time Blackwater will taste the lead. The veteran duo of Banchero and Thoss stepped up and made each of their jumpers to help the Aces build a 103-100 cushion with 34.3 seconds left.
The Elite still gave themselves a chance, as Roi Sumang split his freebies with 30.2 seconds to go. Unfortunately, Maliksi failed to secure the rebound on the other end, as he inadvertently pushed the ball outside with 3.7 seconds left to play.
That knocked out Blackwater cold.
“Honestly, Blackwater really scares me… So, their players were really playing well and they scare me. So to come out with a win in this situation, it’s a nice win for us,” said Compton of the victory.
Maliksi had 25 points to lead the Elite, whose playoff chances have now become slimmer. Meanwhile, backcourt partners Sumang and Mike Di Gregorio chimed in 18 and 14 markers respectively, along with three rebounds apiece.
Both teams will see action on March 1, Friday, still at the MoA Arena. The Elite will take on the skidding Columbian Dyip at the 4:30 PM opener. Afterwards, the Aces battle the second-running Phoenix Pulse Fuel Masters at 7:00 PM.
Alaska 103 – Cruz 18, Teng 18, Thoss 16, Exciminiano 14, Banchero 11, Ayaay 9, Pascual 8, Galliguez 7, Potts 2, Baclao 0.
Blackwater 101 – Maliksi 25, Sumang 18, Digregorio 14, Jose 9, Tratter 7, Belo 7, Sena 6, Cortez 6, Desiderio 4, Alolino 3, Eriobu 2, Javier 0, Banal 0.
Quarterscores: 29-28, 49-48, 75-72, 103-101.