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Manuel, Alaska escape gritty SMB to go up 2-0

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Composed and poised, the Alaska Aces survived another tough match against the defending champs.

With the defending Philippine Cup champs breathing in their necks for the entire match, the Alaska Aces hang on in a scintillating 83-80 finish, and more importantly notch a 2-0 lead in the finals series against the San Miguel Beermen, held at the Smart Araneta Coliseum on Tuesday evening.

Alaska controlled the pace of the game in the first quarter, as they clamped down early against San Miguel’s guards. Cyrus Baguio knocked down two triples that led them to a 16-7 start.

The Beermen were forced to tough isolation shots, while the Aces led by as much as 12 during the first. SMB responded with a 9-2 closeout to the quarter to trim the Aces’ lead, 23-18.

Coach Leo Austria continued the shuffling game in his frontcourt sans June Mar Fajardo, who is listed out still due to his knee injury. However, Yancy De Ocampo, JR Ryes and Gabby Espinas combined for a dud 0/5 shooting after two quarters.

On the other hand, Vic Manuel had 12 first half points that pushed the Aces in extending their lead to nine points during the second. Fortunately for the Beermen, they kept within striking distance after a good amount of defensive stops late, which led them to a 39-36 deficit at the break.

San Miguel kept it close, but Alaska maintained a minimal lead throughout the third quarter. Alex Cabagnot scored 10 points during the frame to keep his team afloat. By the 3:16 mark, the Beermen tied the game at 55 but the Aces took a 62-60 advantage heading into the final quarter.

Yancy De Ocampo came alive in the second half, making key baskets in the fourth quarter to make it a dogfight between the two teams. In addition, Alex Cabagnot continued his slendid outing as two bankshots gave his team their first lead since the opening minutes of the game at 73-71.

Afterwards, a 7-0 counter by the Aces created another gap to the game capped by a Dondon Hontiveros breakaway layup. Back-and-forth tense action ensued after, with Ronald Tubid draining two straight crucial hits to tie the game at 80 with over a minute to play.

Hontiveros then split his free throws, while De Ocampo missed two big free throws down the stretch. After a stop by SMB, they muffed two more attempts, a three-pointer by Ronald Tubid and Vic Manuel thwarting a De Ocampo putback with 2.4 ticks left. Manuel iced the game with two free throws, as SMB had a minimal amount of time to tie the game.

Alaska shot 44% from the field compared to SMB’s 36% clip. They had more points in the paint and had more second chance points, 48-28 and 16-9 respectively.

Once again, Vic Manuel was efficient for the second straight finals game, as he finished 18 points on 8/11 shooting, seven rebounds and two blocks in 22 minutes off the bench. He also knocked down his only two shots from the free throw stripe which extended the Aces’ lead to three points.

After the game, he commended his team’s defense and said the game plan will be the same in the upcoming matches saying, “Concentrate lang talaga ako kasi importante yung free throws na yun. Yun yung pwede magpapanalo samin or makapag overtime nila.

“Yung execution namin at depensa usap usap kasi kami kailangan namin tong laban na to. May June Mar man sila o wala, same lang prepartion namin,” Manuel remarked about the improvements in his team compared to last season.

Cabagnot finished with 23 points for SMB, including 4/7 shooting from downtown. De Ocampo inked in 13, while Lassiter chipped 11 markers in the loss.

Game 3 of this series will be played on Fridayy January 22, at Lucena City.

The Scores:
Alaska (83) – Manuel 18, Hontiveros 12, Baguio 10, Abueva 9, Jazul 7, Menk 6, Banchero 6, Baclao 6, Casio 5, Thoss 4, Exciminiano 0, Dela Cruz 0.
San Miguel (80) – Cabagnot 23, De Ocampo 13, Lassiter 11, Santos 10, Ross 6, Lutz 6, Tubid 5, Espinas 4, Arana 0, Reyes 0.
Quarterscores: 23-18, 39-36, 62-60, 83-80.

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