Alaska will live to fight another day as it beat NLEX, 93-79, in the 2021-22 PBA Governors’ Cup quarterfinals, Wednesday at the SMART Araneta Coliseum.
The Aces unloaded a blistering 20-2 run to eradicate a 16-point deficit and make it a 40-38 lead at the half. And the momentum shifted in their favor from then on, eventually sending the series to a do-or-die on Saturday at 6:30 p.m.
“Sabi namin, we have to get back to our defense. And understanding our defensive schemes, and being more physical,” said coach Jeff Cariaso.
“So I think, when we became more physical defensively, we were moving our feet better, we weren’t giving up easy fouls, that allowed the offense to transition, for it to be a little bit easier,” he furthered.
Brought in to take the place of Olu Ashaolu, Mark St. Fort made a good account of himself in his debut with 17 points and 14 rebounds, proving to be a good compliment to the Aces’ locals despite being with them for four days.
Jeron Teng finished with 16 points and six rebounds. The fifth-year forward was the one who sparked Alaska’s second quarter turnaround, scoring half of his output in the said period after going scoreless in the first.
Mike Tolomia supplied 10 markers, all of which he scored in the third canto as he continued the Aces’ surge in the second half that saw them push their lead to as high as 17, 84-67, after St. Fort’s trey with 4:10 left to play.
The desire to extend their last hurrah was indeed a motivation for Alaska, who outrebounded the opposition by a wide margin, 63-47.
“We didn’t want it to be our last game. So what makes it harder is, compared to the announcement, we kinda are closer to seeing what could possibly be the end, ‘no? So mas malapit tayo doon,” Cariaso said.
“So, that in itself is a challenge and a motivation on its own. So we tried to use that to motivate us even more, for us to focus even more, for us to be ready even more, and to play together even more,” he continued.
Cameron Clark led NLEX with 25 points and 16 rebounds in the loss that spoiled his debut as the team’s new import in lieu of KJ McDaniels.
Kevin Alas had 17 points, while Don Trollano added 12 markers for the Road Warriors, who made just two of their 23 three-pointers.
It is a situation all too familiar for the MVP ball club. It also held a twice-to-beat edge in the Governors’ Cup quarters back in 2019 but blew it to NorthPort, although it still has a shot to prevent that from happening again.
Alaska 93 – St. Fort 17, Teng 16, Tratter 12, Tolomia 10, Digregorio 9, Taha 9, Ahanmisi 6, Bulanadi 5, Ilagan 3, Racal 3, Faundo 3, Stockton 0, Adamos 0.
NLEX 79 – Clark 25, Alas 17, Trollano 12, Rosales 7, Paniamogan 5, Quinahan 4, Nieto 3, Chua 2, Soyud 2, Ighalo 2, Miranda 0, Varilla 0.
Quarterscores: 12-26, 40-38, 64-55, 93-79.
The second game of each playdate is also livestreamed on SMART Sports.