Alaska set the biggest losing margin of the conference in the elimination round via a 41-point victory. Coincidentally, now they have to face that same team in the final phase of the knockout quarterfinals. Living up to the mastery they showed in the first game, they remained a mystery for the Bolts as they pulled off another lopsided victory, 87-69, earlier at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
First half surge
“These guys just defended so hard in the first 24 minutes,” said Aces head coach Alex Compton on his players’ effort in the opening half. From the get go, Alaska pounded the Bolts through their suffocating defense. They opened the first
quarter with multiple stops forcing Meralco to turn the ball over four times in a single quarter. The Bolts only shot 26% from the field in the first quarter while missing all eight of their three-point attempts. Alaska, meanwhile, shot 75% from beyond the arc in that quarter to go for a 15-point first quarter lead.
Coming into the second quarter, Meralco tried to match Alaska’s intensity but Alaska got back and regained their 15-point lead. The Aces then ended the half with a 13-2 run capped by a one-handed three-point buzzer beater by Cyrus Bagiuo to take a 22-point advantage.
Six with two
The Aces’ defensive mastery in the opening period was highlighted when they held all Bolts to a maximum of two points in the first quarter. Six Bolts scored two points each for their miserable 12-point opening quarter output.
On the other hand, Alaska’s bench also matched Meralco’s total output at 12 behind 10 points from Dondon Hontiveros and Chris Banchero. “Sobrang ganda ng umpisa namin,” Compton quipped.
The Aces implemented a back court trap all throughout the contest, giving them the advantage in the steals department, 9-5. Their collective defense sealed the deal for them as they converted 17 points off the turnovers they created. Meralco had a total of 19 turnovers in the match.
A rematch of all sorts. It was Rain or Shine who dropped Alaska in the semifinals last season. It was also the same squad who dealt the franchise a 51-point drubbing in the elimination round last year. And the same team that dropped the Aces for a possible outright semifinals seat this conference.
With the chance to face Rain or Shine again, Compton had just a few words, “I expect that to be a great series. Mataas and respeto ko sa kanila.”