Short-handed Alaska nips NLEX to return to winning ways
MANILA, Philippines – Despite missing key players JVee Casio and Sonny Thoss, last conference's runner-ups Alaska Aces pulled out a much-needed character win as they slipped past the NLEX Road Warriors, 96-95, to grab their first win in the 2015 PBA Commissioner's Cup on Saturday, February 7 at the FilOil Flying V Arena in San Juan.
"I'm glad we had to win it with a stop, I just believe that's more character for us," said head coach Alex Compton.
Up by a precarious point after big man Asi Taulava split his charities on the other end and the Aces failed to convert on two ensuing possessions, Alaska had to rely on its greatest asset to pull them through: defense.
The Aces braced for the Road Warriors' final play with 4 seconds left, accurately predicting that coach Boyet Fernandez would put the ball in the hands of Al Thornton. Alaska's defense managed to stop the import from getting close to the basket or getting a good look for a jump shot.
As Thornton drove hard to the rim, he appeared to have slipped, with NLEX contesting there was a foul. The referees did not blow the whistle on the play.
"Looked like a tough play for us. Obviously we were afraid of Thornton getting the ball and we wanted to be really ready to help with him," Compton said. "We felt like he was going to take the shot. And so we were able to get the stop."
Import DJ Covington led all Aces with 24 points together with 7 rebounds as Alaska bounced back from a lopsided first game loss to Purefoods last Wednesday.
Alaska continued to miss the services of primary point guard Casio as well as starting center Thoss due to wrist and foot injuries they finally addressed after playing through it in the previous Philippine Cup.
The injury woes worsened for the Aces as forward Vic Manuel came down hard with 3 minutes left in the game. Clutching his left knee and grimacing in pain, he had to be helped off the court and never returned to the game.
Manuel, who had been playing well for Alaska scoring 4 straight points to break the tie and give his team an 89-85 cushion prior to hurting his knee, finished with 16 points on top of 8 rebounds.
Cyrus Baguio and RJ Jazul registered 14 and 12 markers, respectively, as Alaska dominanted the paint despite the massive combination of Taulava and Thornton with 58 points from that area compared to NLEX's 26.
Thornton scored NLEX's first 7 points and went on to finish with a double-double of 39 points and 13 rebounds.
KG Canaleta was the only other Road Warrior in double figures with 16 points as he went 4-of-8 from beyond the arc, two of which he dropped ending the third to bring NLEX to within 75-73.
NLEX, which fell to 0-2 to in the standings, buried 11 three-pointers throughout the game, which helped them come back from a 13-point deficit in the third. – Rappler.com