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PBA: Herndon, Alaska weather ‘Bagyo’ for opening day win


Alaska didn’t want to be a mere footnote to Arwind Santos’ debut with his new team as it withstood NorthPort, 87-85, in a thrilling 2021 PBA Governors’ Cup opening encounter, Wednesday at the Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig.

Robbie Herndon sank the go-ahead jumper with 30.1 seconds left, and the Aces hung on to escape with the narrow victory after losing a 10-point lead due to a furious Batang Pier rally led by the former Most Valuable Player himself.

“This being our first game, it’s always early. I guess in any conference, you always want to start on the right foot so we’ll take any win we can,” exhaled head coach Jeff Cariaso, relieved to see his wards eke out the victory.

Alaska thought that it had everything under control when import Olu Ashaolu pushed their lead to 79-69 following a long trey with 5:40 remaining.

But that’s when Santos came to play. He took over for NorthPort right after, scoring 12 straight points — a stretch that saw him nail three consecutive triples — to chop the deficit to just a field goal, 81-83, with 1:46 to go.

“Arwind’s Arwind,” Cariaso said, in awe of the 40-year-old’s performance. “He’s a vet. He knows where he has to get his shots from. It doesn’t matter what team he’s playing for. As long as he can get his shots, he’ll make ’em.”

That’s when the other Batang Pier helped out. After a perfect trip to the foul line off an Ashaolu foul, Greg Slaughter cleaned the miss of Santos to finally put his side in the driver’s seat, 84-83, approaching the final minute.

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Unfortunately, Lady Luck left Pido Jarencio’s wards and smiled on Alaska instead, with Herndon coming up clutch with his fallaway shot.

And that marked the beginning of the end for NorthPort, with Robert Bolick missing both of his crucial shots — first a three-pointer from near the top of the key and a heave from midcourt — in the closing moments.

“Like I said. you try to win early, you try to get early wins as you start getting the timing back, the feel of playing back. You can tell that there’s still a lot of rust. Just happy that we’re able to pull it off,” Cariaso said.

Ashaolu led Alaska with 20 points and 14 rebounds. Jeron Teng supplied 19 points, as Herndon finished with 13 markers.

Santos, meanwhile, finished with a game-high 23 points and seven rebounds to lead NorthPort in a vintage performance that also saw him collect four blocks and three steals in nearly 31 minutes off the bench.

Slaughter had 18 points and 11 rebounds. Import Cameron Forte also registered 18 markers, together with 15 boards.

Both squads will return to action on Friday. Alaska will look to go 2-0 against San Miguel (0-1) at 6:00 p.m., while NorthPort (0-1) hopes to bounce back against KJ McDaniels and NLEX (1-0) at 3:00 p.m.

The Scores

Alaska 87 – Ashaolu 20, Teng 19, Herndon 13, Taha 8, Ahanmisi 7, Tratter 6, Tolomia 6, Digregorio 5, Racal 3, Brondial 0.

NorthPort 85 – Santos 23, Slaughter 18, Forte 18, Malonzo 10, Bolick 8, Rike 5, Taha 2, Doliguez 1, Balanza 0, Elorde 0, Grey 0, Ferrer 0.

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Quarterscores: 19-18, 41-39, 68-60, 87-85.

Written By

Oftentimes on the sidelines. Forever a student of the game. Morayta-bred.


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