A sizzling fourth quarter performance from Dondon Hontiveros and a couple of big defensive plays
proved to be all the difference the Alaska Aces needed, for they are now headed to the PBA Philippine Cup finals after a 79-76 victory over the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters as they wrapped up their semifinal series in Game 6 and set a finals showdown with old foes the San Miguel Beermen, Sunday night at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Powered by an explosive early first quarter performance by big man Raymond Almazan on both ends of the court, the Elasto Painters paced the opening minutes of the period, leading by as many as six points.
After holding Rain or Shine scoreless for nearly three minutes of play, the Aces managed to force a 12-all deadlock with just three minutes left in the quarter, following a lay-up from Erik Menk. Tensions rose with just a minute left on the clock, after Alaska’s Calvin Abueva complained about being hit in the face by Rain or Shine enforcer Beau Belga after the two found themselves tangled up while digging for a loose ball. Belga was slapped with a technical foul for second motion, and the extra free throw awarded to the Aces gave them their first lead of the game at 15-14. At the end of the period, the Aces led 20-16.
The affair continued to be a defensive, low-scoring one for most of the early second quarter. Led by fleet-footed big man Vic Manuel who dominated on both ends of the court, Alaska stayed on top for most of the quarter, eventually closing out the first half with the biggest lead of either team in the first 24 minutes, 36-28. They held the Elasto Painters to 27.5 % field goal shooting and 1-of-15 three-point shooting. The Aces shot a marginally better 39% from their end of the court for the first half.
Though the Elasto Painters showed some signs of life early in the third period, the Aces answered back for every run mounted by the Rain or Shine side, who came within striking distance a couple of times early in the quarter but could come no closer. Their fortunes finally turned around at the three-minute mark after a trey from Belga gave them their first taste of the lead since the first quarter, 50-48. They proved to be the quicker draw in the ensuing exchange of baskets, and at the end of the penultimate quarter they led by four, 60-56.
A corner triple from Hontiveros gave the Aces back their lead, 67-66, with around less than nine
minutes on the clock. The veteran sharpshooter’s series of threes kept the Aces in the running,
with the lead traded numerous times in the next few minutes of play. Entering the final two minutes, the Elasto Painters held the lead, 76-73, but another triple from Hontiveros tied the ball game up at the 1:34 mark. Another triple from the 14-year veteran approaching the final minute gave the Aces a 79-76 lead.
Gabe Norwood and Jeff Chan both bricked three-point attempts in the following play, before Alaska could corral the ball and burn out some time from the clock. Later with ten seconds left on the clock, Rain or Shine found Chan on the wing, but he once more bricked what could have been the basket to save the game. The ball was rebounded by Sonny Thoss, who held on to the ball as the clock expired.
Hontiveros took home Player of the Game honors with 17 points, six rebounds, and 5/9 shooting from beyond the arc off the bench. Chan led the Elasto Painters with 14 points.
Photo by Nuki Sabio