Alaska takes commanding 2-0 series lead over Star
MANILA, Philippines – Dondon Hontiveros squared his shoulders, raised the basketball up with his arms, stared deadeye at one of the rims of the Smart Araneta Coliseum on Friday evening, July 3, and let it fly. Just like many times in the past, his 3-pointer hit nothing but the bottom of the net.
The Alaska Aces went on top 78-54 to start the fourth quarter after the Cebuano Hotshot’s long range bomb, and it felt like the result of the contest was no longer a question.
12 minutes later, the final score read 95-74 in favor of the Aces, who beat their rival Star Hotshots for a second straight game in the Governors’ Cup semifinals to take a commanding 2-0 lead in the best-of-5 series.
True to their mantra of “We not me,” Alaska received huge contributions from their bench guys, who combined for 57 points. Ping Exciminiano and Noy Baclao each pitched in 10 points, aiding the 19 points and 14 rebounds of import Travis Romeo to seal the victory.
“I absolutely love watching Ping Exciminiano hit threes and Noy Baclao playing like an all-star. I mean, how much does that help?” Head Coach Alex Compton said after Game 2, with his team a victory away from returning to the PBA Finals for the second conference this season.
“Nothing is done yet. We [won’t] celebrate.”
The Hotshots will enter Game 3 of the series on Sunday with nothing to lose, but on Friday, they were dominated by the superb defense of Alaska, who’s now 10-3 this conference overall.
Star shot just 38% from the floor and was out-hustled on the boards, 49-32. They also allowed the Aces 34 points in the paint and 14 second chance points.
“I believe in the second half, our guys asserted themselves defensively,” said Compton, whose team outscored Coach Tim Cone’s 24-17 in the third period.
PJ Simon led Star with 17 points, most coming in the fourth period as he tried to spearhead a late run for his team. Marqus Blakely pitched in 19 points and 8 boards, while James Yap registered 10 markers on 5-of-7 shooting.
Friday marked the first time since the 1999 PBA Governors’ Cup that Star fell to a 0-2 whole in a best-of-5 series. The last time it happened was also against the Aces, who were then coached by Tim Cone.
Calvin Abueva had 11 points - 9 in the first quarter - overall to go with 6 boards, while Hontiveros and JVee Casio put up 8 and 7 markers, respectively.
Baclao, the first overall pick in the 2009 PBA Draft, also had 5 rebounds and shot 5-of-5 from the field.
“Noy Baclao has come to this team and has worked his butt off… he’s just the epitome of a professional,” said Compton, whose Aces shot 54% from the floor.
Alaska survived Star’s last hurrah when they turned an 80-72 lead with 6:36 remaining into a 16-point lead thanks to baskets from Exciminiano, Baclao, Travis, and Cyrus Baguio over the next 3 minutes - a stretch where the Hotshots missed 5 straight baskets.
The Aces then cruised the rest of the way to a victory while extending the lead all the way up to 21.
ALASKA 95 - Travis 19, Abueva 11, Baclao 10, Exciminiano 10, Banchero 9, Manuel 9, Baguio 8, Hontiveros 8, Casio 7, Thoss 4, Dela Rosa 0, Jazul 0.
STAR 74 - Blakely 19, Simon 17, Yap 10, Mallari 8, Pingris 7, Pennisi 5, Melton 3, Barroca 3, Devance 2, Taha 0, Maliksi 0.
Quarter Scoring: 23-23, 47-41, 71-58, 95-74