The Alaska Aces have always put a premium on defense. Going up against one of the league’s top-scoring teams, the Aces banked on this strength to secure an important victory and move to the upper half of the team standings.
The Aces defeated the Star Hotshots, 97-90, in overtime of the crucial battle, Wednesday night in 2017 Oppo PBA Philippine Cup action at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum. The Aces moved up to tie the TNT Katropa and GlobalPort Batang Pier for a share of the third spot at 4-3, behind the league-leading San Miguel Beermen (7-1) and Rain or Shine Elasto Painters (5-2).
Alaska’s interior defense held strong in the overtime period as they forced the Hotshots to exclusively shoot long shots. Star got a triple from Mark Barroca but that was their only field goal in extra time. Their only other point came from Paul Lee who sank a technical free throw.
Calvin Abueva was a huge factor for Alaska in the overtime period as he scored 5 points, while getting a rebound and a steal.
He scored the first basket of overtime and then gave Alaska a more comfortable 4-point advantage, 93-89, with 1:09 left. The Hotshots’ offense was in complete disarray at that point as they either turned the ball over or settled for a long shot, making it easier for the Aces to defend them.
Vic Manuel and Chris Banchero put the finishing touches in the game as the two sank a couple of free throws each in the final minute.
“Calvin and Vic, sila talaga mga bida sa game na ito. They carried us. Their energy was tremendous,” said Alaska head coach Alex Compton after the game.
Manuel led Alaska with 25 points and 8 rebounds while Abueva was not too far behind with 23 points, 9 rebounds, and 4 steals.
“But I want to mention two guys who are in opposite spectrums of their career,” added Compton.
“Tony Dela Cruz, siya yung nagstart ng third quarter. Ang ganda ng binigay niya sa amin. He started the whole thing. No one was talking on defense pero si Tony madaldal na tao ‘yan pag nasa loob siya. Sa aming coaches, malaking bagay yan. Gusto namin may mga coach on the floor. Syempre malaking bagay rin yung jumpers niya,” the coach said about his veteran who helped power Alaska to a 32-19 third quarter against Star.
“And si JP Mendoza, I’m not sure about this, but I’ll check JP’s DNA because I think he and Calvin are first cousins,” Compton said. “He’s relentless, he has no fear, he was a practice player last year but now he’s really helping us.”
Mendoza only scored 1 point in the game but he grabbed 6 rebounds and dished out an assist while making sure that Allein Maliksi did not get a lot of clean looks at the basket.
Both teams actually had the shot at scoring the winning basket in regulation. With 28 seconds left, Star had their chance but Maliksi’s three-pointer hit the left side of the rim. The Hotshots got the ball back as Maliksi, who led Star’s fourth quarter rally with 11 points in the period, got the rebound off his own miss.
However, instead of resetting their offense and making sure they got the last shot, Maliksi hurriedly shot a mid-range jumper that also missed.
On the other end, it was Abueva who took the possible game-winner for Alaska with 3 seconds left in the fourth but his jumper was well-defended by Marc Pingris which caused the overtime period as the score was tied at 89 apiece.
“Last game namin against TNT, masyadong mataas yung kumpiyansa namin,” Abueva, who was named the Best Player of the Game, admitted. “Ngayon naman 19 days yung break so napaghandaan talaga namin yung depensa namin.”
“Kailangan naming umangat kahit at least number 6,” added Abueva, which means they would be in a best-of-three series in the quarterfinals.
Alaska also got solid games from their point guards as JVee Casio and RJ Jazul combined for 23 points, 3 rebounds, and 6 assists.
The Hotshots, on the other hand, were led by Maliksi’s 15 points and 9 rebounds. Veteran Rafi Reavis had an outstanding game with 13 points and 8 rebounds while PJ Simon added 12 markers in very limited minutes on the floor. Lee and Barroca added 10 point apiece for their squad.
Star now falls to a tie with its sister team Ginebra at the eighth spot with their 3-4 win-loss tally.
ALASKA 97 – Manuel 25, Abueva 23, Jazul 13, Casio 10, Exciminiano 7, Banchero 6, Dela Cruz 6, Racal 3, Pascual 3, Mendoza 1, Thoss 0, Magat 0, Cruz 0, Galliguez 0, Hontiveros 0.
STAR 90 – Maliksi 15, Reavis 13, Simon 12, Lee 10, Barroca 10, Brondial 7, Pingris 6, Ramos 6, Sangalang 4, Jalalon 4, Melton 3, Abundo 0, Dela Rosa 0.
Quarters: 18-16, 40-46, 72-65, 86-86, 97-90