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Comeback kids: Alaska comes from behind to draw first blood against Star



They’ve done it again.

Down by as much as 18 in the second quarter, the Alaska Aces turned it around for another comeback and scored a 97-91 victory to take Game 1 of the Best-of-5 semifinals series against the Star Hotshots on Wednesday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Star went flaming from the perimeter as they opened up the game with multiple jumpers to build an early lead. The Hotshots limited the Aces with only one field goal in five minutes while four of the Star’s first five shots gave them an early 11-2 lead capped by a Marqus Blakely triple. After the first timeout called in the game issued by the Aces, they finally found the bottom of the rim with Cyrus Bagio and Jvee Casio contributing jumpers quickly.

Unfortunately for the Aces, James Yap and the rest of his crew were able to respond and made the exchange of baskets until they eventually ended the quarter on top by 10. Even with the second unit players being fielded to the floor, Star maintained to hold on to their solid start carried from the big first quarter they had. Similarly to the first, their transition game took effect and quick baskets gave them their biggest lead at 41-23 with 3:46 left in the first half.

Just like any slow start to a game, Alaska found ways in trimming the deficit in the second half as they went on a 10-2 berserk to start the third, with the run cemented by a JVee Casio trifecta. Meanwhile, the seemingly-stunned Star had a poor start in handling and taking care of their possessions that led to turnovers in favor of the Aces.

Now armed with momentum, Chris Banchero and Dondon Hontiveros combined for a fast seven-point contribution in the fourth quarter’s first 75 seconds of play. However, two stops by the Star enabled them to build their 6-0 counter capped by a Blakely tomahawk jam that made the game played in a back-and-forth frantic pace. Alaska led majority of the fourth by a surmountable edge but the pace favored the top-seeded Aces at that point.

On the other hand, Star’s three pointers went wide that led to long rebounds and quick transition plays on Alaska’s end. Despite Travis and Banchero missing layups, free throws helped them build an 86-80 edge, halfway through the period. An intensely-played fourth quarter winded up with Alaska maintaining the edge as a corner triple by PJ Simon to make it a three-point game was the closest the Star had to come.

With about two minutes to play, even the 50-50 balls and offensive boards went timely in favor of the Aces as they even extended the lead to eight, 92-84. Afterwards, Alaska made the necessary stops and converted five of their last six free throws to ice the game.

Alaska had more points in the paint, 50-32 and second chance points, 23-12. In addition, they ended up committing less turnovers, 13-17 despite only shooting a 27% clip from downtown(6-of-22).

Travis tallied 28 points and took only 13 shots for it, together with his 10 boards, two steals and two blocks. Casio added 18 while Banchero chipped in 10. Blakely scored 23 points to pace his squad in a losing effort.

Game 2 of this series will be played on Friday, still at 7pm at the Big Dome.

The scores:

Alaska (97) – Travis 28, Casio 18, Banchero 10, Baguio 8, Abueva 8, Manuel 7, Dela Rosa 6, Hontiveros 6, Jazul 4, Thoss 2, Exciminiano 0, Menk 0, Dela Cruz 0

Star (91) – Blakely 23, Simon 16, Barroca 15, Yap 13, Devance 6, Mallari 6, Pingris 4, Pennisi 4, Melton 2, Reavis 2, Taha 0

Quarterscores: 16-26, 36-51, 70-70, 97-91

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