After dropping three out of their last four assignments in the elimination round, the Alaska Aces woke up in time to advance to the second phase of the knockout format of the quarterfinals via a slim 82-78 victory over the NLEX Road Warriors at the Cuneta Astrodome, Pasay City.
Leading by 14
At some point in the second period, the Aces saw themselves ahead by 14 markers against the Road Warriors, a better offensive team in terms of league ranking. For a long stretch from the first to third quarters, Alaska was up by double digits before NLEX figured things out late in the third frame. Bridging their adjustments in the third canto to the payoff period, the Road Warriors even managed to tie the score thrice in the match.
However, the Road Warriors never tasted the lead all throughout the contest through a great defensive effort by the Aces. Alaska’s resurgence in the game may be heavily credited to their dominant scoring in the paint at 36 compared to NLEX’s 24 markers.
With NLEX coming back a couple of times and trying to snatch the lead from the Aces in the final canto, Alaska found stability and recovered towards the end of the match. With less than two minutes remaining, the Aces saw themselves up by six and that proved to be the marginal difference for them to seal a spot in the next round of the quarterfinals.
Mac Cardona tried to bring his team back, down by just two with only 12 seconds left, but JVee Casio sealed the deal with a backdoor layup off an inbound pass.
Field goal difference at 52-37
“We haven’t been playing exemplary great offensively all throughout the conference. Hindi yata kami mananalo sa shootout,” said Alaska Aces head coach Alex Compton.
Coach Compton didn’t think they could do it, but the Aces out-shot the Road Warriors. Though the huge field goal discrepancy, 52%-37%, may speak a lot, the low percentage of the Road Warriors may be attributed to the defensive schemes of the Aces. A 55 percent clip for the Aces means something for the squad as they even shot 40 percent from beyond the arc compared to NLEX’s 29. Looking at the statistics, the Road Warriors even took more shots than the Aces but were no match for the efficiency of Alaska.
“We just have to play team defense,” said Compton on his team’s good recovery after an NLEX rally to threaten them in the endgame.
He cited some gambles that they took, such as sacrificing to double team Asi Taulava and leaving the shooters of NLEX open. On their defensive resurgence, Compton deflected the credit to his two deputies, Louie Alas and Topex Robinson.
“I don’t feel like our effort in either of the two losses [was] questionable,” shared Compton, who thought the recovery coming into the game was more on his part.
Alaska currently awaits the winner of the other quarterfinal bracket that features Purefoods and Meralco. Compton though does not want to pick a team to face for a single knockout game going into the final phase of the quarterfinals. “Hindi ako mamimili ng kalaban, both teams will bring lot of problems to us,” he quipped.