Purefoods withstands Alaska comeback, advances to semis
MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) — The Purefoods Star Hotshots withstood an inspired endgame rally by the Alaska Aces to escape with a 96-89 victory and sweep the best-of-3 quarterfinals in the 2015 PBA Commissioner's Cup on Sunday, March 29 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Import Denzel Bowles had a game-high 32 points along with 11 rebounds and 4 assists. Joe Devance sizzled from beyond the arc in the first half with 4 triples and finished with 16 points.
Mark Barroca and James Yap had 14 and 11 points, respectively.
"Well it certainly got scary there in the end. And now it's like a big relief to get through the quarters against a tough opponent like Alaska," Purefoods head coach Tim Cone breathed a sigh of relief.
"I know Rain or Shine was saying they had the toughest battle (against Ginebra) but I know we had the toughest battle out there having to play Alaska."
Purefoods entered the fourth armed with a 15-point advantage which ballooned to as many as 20, 75-55. But Alaska came charging back and chipped away at the deficit before going on a fast-paced 11-0 run that brought them to within 88-84 with 2:12 remaining.
It looked like momentum had swung permanently to the side of the Aces as Yap committed a turnover in the ensuing play but Marc Pingris, who finished with 6 points and 8 rebounds, scored off a Damion James miscue to stop Purefoods' bleeding with 1:17 left.
Alex Mallari extended the lead, 92-84, on a pair of free throws inside the final minute.
JVee Casio sank a corner triple to cut the deficit to 5 but the Hotshots simply knocked down their free throws to survive.
"They showed their character, they came to play and even though we were up 15 to start the fourth quarter, they didn't quit. They just kept coming right at us," Cone said.
"Luckily our first group got out there and toughened up. We made a couple stops and that was it. Can't tell you how glad we are to get through this series especially in two games. I didn't want a third game but I felt there was going to be one."
Alaska had RJ Jazul leading the charge with his hot hands as he fired 6-of-8 from long range to post 22 points.
James contributed 21 points, 11 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 blocks and two steals as the Aces, last conference's runners-up, bowed out of the playoffs.
Calvin Abueva and Casio chipped in 14 and 10 points, respectively, as Alaska fell short again after being demolished, 120-86, in game 1 of the series last Friday.
Purefoods will have a best-of-5 semifinals date with Talk 'N Text this week.
The Hotshots defeated the Texters in the eliminations, 118-117, in an intense triple overtime thriller earlier this month.
"That should be a whale of a series," Cone said. "They're playing well, we're playing pretty well." — Rappler.com
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