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Die another day: Alaska puts San Miguel on lockdown, forces Game 7

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We are headed to Game 7.

The Alaska Aces didn’t need to wait for the fourth quarter this time, climbing out of a 14-point hole in the early part of the first quarter before wresting control of the ball game in the second and later closing out the match with an 87-76 Game 6 victory Sunday night at the Araneta Coliseum.

San Miguel had another hot start, opening the first quarter by holding the Aces to a dismal two points in six minutes of play to build a 15-2 lead halfway through the period. Spurred by Calvin Abueva, the Aces managed to come within six in the final minute of the quarter, following a 15-8 run. At the end of twelve, the Beermen led 23-17.

A 9-0 rally capped by back-to-back baskets from Vic Manuel to open the quarter pushed Alaska to the driver’s seat for the first time in the game, 24-23, two minutes into the second period. Powered by another long-range salvo by Dondon Hontiveros, who had 14 first half points to his name, the Aces pulled away by as many as eight in the next minutes of play. At the half, the Aces led 42-36.

The Aces continued to dictate the game in the third quarter, eventually extending their lead to 12, 50-38, just three minutes into the period. A five-point flurry from the previously slumping JVee Casio to break out of his cold spell gave the Alaska faithful an extra something to cheer about. The Beermen however kept biting at the sweet-shooting Aces’ heels, cutting the lead to single digits in the last minute of the quarter. At the end of the third, Alaska led 63-56.

Putting on another staggering display of defensive prowess, the Aces managed to stay ahead of the race in the fourth quarter. Best Player of the Conference and San Miguel juggernaut June Mar Fajardo found himself struggling to find the easy basket, thanks to the Aces’ own big men. He later finished the game with only nine points. Entering the final two minutes, the Aced led 83-74. A basket after the drive from Marcio Lassiter gave San Miguel a glimmer of hope at the 1:30 mark, cutting the lead to seven, 83-76. Following a series of huge defensive stops and crucial offensive boards by Alaska, Sonny Thoss’s uncanny jumper was the nail in the coffin with just a little under 50 seconds left on the clock to extend the lead to eight, 85-76. A couple more Alaska baskets padded the lead.

Hontiveros was awarded Player of the Game honors after finishing with 18 points and four rebounds. Arwind Santos led the Beermen with 22 points, six rebounds, and two blocks. The final game in the two storied franchises’ series will take place on Wednesday.

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