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Talk ‘N Text escapes late Alaska surge; clinches twice-to-beat advantage

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The Talk ‘N Text Tropang Texters escaped a resurgent Alaska Aces in crunch time to finish the elimination round with a share of the much-coveted 8-3 slate and a twice-to-beat advantage in the playoffs, after a 101-93 victory Sunday evening at the Araneta Coliseum.

Alaska opened the first quarter with a 4-0 start but lost their foothold in the following minutes of play. Import Ivan Johnson powered the Tropang Texters as they opened their campaign, sinking the first few baskets to get things going. Back-to-back treys by Johnson and Ranidel de Ocampo helped Talk ‘N Text pull away for a 17-10 and plant themselves in the driver’s seat. The Tropang Texters forced the Aces to misfire, and with Johnson dominating the painted area and firing at will, the lead would blow to double digits, 25-15, late in the quarter. At the end of the first 12 minutes, TNT led 27-15. 16 of Talk ‘N Text’s 27 points came from Johnson alone.

The sweet-shooting Tropang Texters opened the second quarter with another salvo amid clunky shooting from the opposing side. Triples from Johnson and Jay Washington put Talk ‘N Text up by fifteen, 37-21, halfway through the quarter. A couple of baskets from a reinvigorated Damion James sparked the Aces to cut the lead to double digits, 37-28. The Aces stayed in the nine-point range for the next few possession, but their run was dismantled by three triples from TNT import Johnson in the last minute of the quarter to make it 48-31 just in time for the halftime break. By the break, Johnson had already clocked in 30 markers to his name.

Johnson opened the second half with a triple that gave Talk ‘N Text the first 20-point lead of the ballgame, 51-31. Calvin Abueva and Vic Manuel tried to spark Alaska by sinking a couple of big baskets and helping bring down the deficit to 16, but were answered by a trey from Ranidel de Ocampo on the other end to extend the lead to 59-40. Unable to find their much needed spark and counter the Tropang Texters’ salvo, the Aces could only watch as the lead grew to as many as 25 in the quarter. It was only late in the quarter that the Aces showed signs of life, after a trey from Dondon Hontiveros cut the lead to 19 with just a minute to play, 71-52. At the end of the quarter, the Tropang Texters led 74-56.

Big buckets from Calvin Abueva and back-to-back treys helped Alaska gain foothold and come within 12 points, 64-76, four minutes into the final period. The Aces continued their push to wrestle control of the game, and after finally finding their touch on the arc, a triple from Cyrus Baguio with seven minutes left brought them within single digits, 70-79. A Calvin Abueva cut it to seven with a floater, but Ranidel de Ocampo responded on the other end with a triple to make a ten-point game.

Amid flaring tempers on the court, particularly between Alaska’s Abueva and Talk ‘N Text’s Johnson, who figured in a series of verbal arguments, the Aces fought to keep momentum on their side with Talk ‘N Text doing just enough to keep the opposing side from getting into striking distance. Just before the last two minutes clocked in, Alaska’s Hontiveros made it a seven-point game, 79-87, but was answered by TNT’s de Ocampo on the opposite end to make it a ten-point game. The Aces were able to come within eight, 82-90, in the next minute, but were unable to come any further. With a minute left to play, Jason Castro split free throws to extend the TNT lead to nine. Following free throws from Castro and another trey from Alaska’s Baguio, the score was at 93-85 entering the last 40 seconds of the game.

With three more seconds just gone by, Dondon Hontiveros sank a breakaway triple that cut the lead to five. Talk ‘N Text’s Castro sank two free throws in the next possession, but a layup from Alaska import Damion James made it a five-point game at 95-90. Two more free throws with less than 20 ticks left care of TNT import Johnson made extended the lead to seven. The Tropang Texters needed only to sink a couple more shots to ice the win. The dying seconds of the ballgame were marred by another spat between Abueva and Johnson. With time on their side, Talk ‘N Text walked away with the win. Commotion broke out at the buzzer anew after Johnson figured in a confrontation with Alaska head coach Alex Compton. The two parties had to be separated on their way to the dugout

Ivan Johnson was named Player of the Game with a resounding 47 points, 10 rebounds, and nine 3-point field goals to his name.

With the win, Talk ‘N Text finishes at 8-3 and along with the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters will enter the postseason with a twice-to-beat advantage. Alaska slides to 4-6 after the loss.

Quarter scores: 27-15, 48-31, 74-56, 101-93

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