The Alaska Aces finally got on the winning track after holding off the Meralco Bolts, 103-98, in the 2018 PBA Philippine Cup on Wednesday at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
Calvin Abueva and Vic Manual scored 19 points each to lead the Aces, while Chris Banchero added 13 points, three rebounds and three assists.
Meralco opened the game with a slim 11-8 lead before Alaska staged a 18-5 run to close the first quarter with a double-digit lead. Midway through the next frame, the Bolts made it a six-point game after a triple from Ken Bono but the Aces, behind Manual and Sonny Thoss, remained in control and went ahead 53-39 at the half.
Chris Newsome and Baser Amer each made a pair of freethrows to bring Meralco within six, 6:23 in the third period. After a miss from Calvin Abueva, Reynel Hugnatan knocked down a three to further trim the deficit to three, 62-59. Alaska, however, scored the next seven points, five of which came from Abueva, to widen the margin back to 10. Meralco was able to bring the lead down to three again but the third quarter ended with the Aces on top by seven, 78-71.
A jumper from Manuel put Alaska up by 10 in the fourth. The Bolts used a 6-0 run to inch closer but a three-point play from Chris Banchero gave the Aces an 87-80 edge, 6:23 left in the game. Both teams exchanged empty possessions before Amer drained a corner triple at the 3:10 mark to pull Meralco within four, forcing Alaska to call a timeout.
Racal hit a three for the Aces, but Caneleta responded with a three-pointer of his own. Racal, however, knocked down another from downtown to give Alaska some breathing room, 93-86, 2:05 remaining on the clock. After the Bolts scored a bucket, Abueva completed a three-point play on Alaska’s next trip down to make it am eight-point game, 96-88, pretty much clinching the victory for the Aces.
“I think we brought the energy and teamwork tonight,” Alaska head coach Alex Compton said after the game. “What our guys just showed today, when we work like that, I’ll go to war with those guys anytime.”
Alaska and Meralco are now tied in the league standings with identical 1-2 win-loss cards.
ALASKA 103 – Abueva 19, Manuel 19, Banchero 13, Teng 8, Casio 8, Racal 8, J. Pascual 7, Enciso 7, Thoss 5, Potts 4, Exciminiano 3, Cruz 2.
MERALCO 98 – Newsome 23, Canaleta 16, Amer 15, Bono 9, Dillinger 8, Hugnatan 8, Baracael 6, Caram 6, Lanete 5, Ballesteros 2, Tolomia 0.
Quarters: 26-16, 53-39, 78-71, 103-98.
– The Aces dominated the Bolts in several aspects of the game: points in the paint (54-20), fast break points (14-4), and in bench production (50-34).
– After posting impressive numbers in his first two games, Alaska rookie Jeron Teng had a subpar performance against the Bolts. He only had eight points, on 2-of-8 shooting, one rebound and three assists.
– KG Canaleta joined the 5,000-point club after burying a triple with 2:09 left in the game.
Alaska – January 14 vs. Kia at Smart-Araneta Coliseum
Meralco – January 17 vs. TNT at Ynares Center