After going without a single victory in their first five assignments, the Barako Bull Energy grabbed their second straight victory in the Philippine Cup in sweet fashion, dealing the previously undefeated Alaska Aces their first defeat in the conference, 85-78, Tuesday night at the Araneta Coliseum.
Leading the charge was veteran guard Denok Miranda, who had 21 points and 3 steals while draining four out of five three-point attempts. 16 of his 21 markers came in the first half.
The first half saw a strong showing from Barako Bull, who looked geared to pull off the upset in the first two quarters. Proving to be the quicker draw in a virtual shootout in the first quarter while forcing Alaska to eight turnovers, Barako Bull closed out the opening period with a 20-18 edge. The lead only ballooned in the second quarter, after a 15-0 run spurred by Miranda gave the Energy the means to lead by as many as fifteen, 40-25, with four minutes left on the clock. The Aces managed to trim the margin to single digits in the following minute, 40-31, after a quick 6-0 rally, but Barako Bull responded in kind in the final minutes, going 9-0 to take a 49-31 advantage at halftime.
Barako Bull led by as many as twenty-one points early in the third quarter, but Alaska soon found a way to put an end to the bleeding. A 12-2 run halfway in the quarter brought Alaska within ten points, 63-53. However, Barako Bull’s Carlo Lastimosa was ruled to have been fouled shortly before the buzzer sounded, and went on to sink two free throws after an extra second was added to the clock. Barako old-timer Mic Pennisi was slapped a technical foul soon after for delaying the game, and Alaska split the charities. At the end of the third, Barako Bull led by eleven, 65-54.
A 9-0 rally capped by a couple of big time treys from veteran gunner Dondon Hontiveros came in handy for Alaska, as the Aces finally came within a manageable distance at 67-63. The ensuing shootout in the next few minutes however proved more favorable for the Energy, who entered the final two minutes leading by six, 77-71.
With little more than a minute left, Barako Bull still led by six, 79-73. First half hero Miranda came in big once more for the Energy by sinking a sneaky jumper to bring the lead to eight, 81-73, with 50.2 left on the clock.
R.R. Garcia, who like Miranda suited up for the Far Eastern University Tamaraws as a college player, added 18 points for the Energy. Calvin Abueva led the Aces with 16 points and 11 rebounds. Barako Bull climbs to 2-5, solo tenth in the standings. Alaska slips to 6-1 after receiving its first loss, but remain at the top of the standings as of this writing.