After shaking off troubled shooting in the first half, the Alaska Aces finally found the means to beat back a feisty and win-hungry Blackwater Elite in the fourth quarter, trouncing the still winless expansion team, 69-56, Friday night at the Araneta Coliseum.
40 year-old Erik Menk, the Most Valuable Player from 2005, led the charge for Alaska, bagging 14 points and grabbing 13 rebounds in a performance reminiscent of his earlier days in the league.
Both teams struggled offensively in the first quarter, but it was Alaska who was able to capitalize on the offensive lull to play tougher defense. The Aces held the Elite to a lackluster nine points in the quarter to take a 15-9 at the end of the first period. The second quarter would see both squads yield slightly better scoring, leading to a trade of baskets early in the quarter. Still the better-shooting team, Alaska ended the quarter on a 7-0 run to take a 32-20 lead at halftime.
Alaska would only continue to force Blackwater to misfire in the third period, holding Blackwater to only three points in the first six minutes of the quarter. After trailing by double digits for most of the quarter, the Elite finally showed signs of life late in the quarter, going on a 8-0 with three minutes left on the clock to trim the deficit to as little as five points, 35-41. Following the late Blackwater push, both squads returned to the sideline as at the end of the quarter with the score at 46-38.
The Aces however would find the means to pull away halfway through the final quarter, bringing the lead back up by double-digits, 55-44, after four straight points from Chris Exciminiano. With Blackwater suddenly struggling once more to find the easy basket, Alaska would capitalize to pile on the lead, entering the final two minutes of the game leading by almost twenty, 65-47.
Calvin Abueva had 13 points for the Aces while Vic Manuel added 10. JP Erram led Blackwater with 10 points. Alaska are still with the best record in the Philippine Cup at 6-0, while Blackwater, who have yet to taste victory since joining the PBA this year, fall to 0-6.