MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The Alaska Aces scratched and clawed its way out of an 18-point hole to steal game 1 of the semifinals from the Star Hotshots, 97-91, in the 2015 PBA Governors' Cup on Wednesday, July 1 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The Aces started extremely slow and trailed 11-2 early and eventually 41-23 in the second half before they stormed ahead by outscoring the Hotshots, 34-19, in a huge third quarter rally that turned the momentum in Alaska's favor for good.
"I just told them, honestly, that they're (Star) not our kuya (brother)," head coach Alex Compton tried to explain what changed for Alaska in the second half. "We were playing like we respect them too much."
"I felt in the first half we were playing them like they were our kuya and we were scared of our kuya. That was garbage, honestly, and it upset me," he added.
A Vic Manuel three-point play put the Aces ahead for the first time, 68-67, with 33.7 ticks left in the third. Both teams entered the fourth tied at 70 after a late exchange of baskets.
Alaska held the lead throughout the fourth but a JVee Casio basket in transition made it a 92-84 advantage with 2:22 remaining. The Star came to within 95-91 on a James Yap triple but Alaska had done enough to ward off their foes.
Import Romeo Travis finished with 28 points, including 11 in that searing third quarter run, to lead the Aces on top of 10 rebounds, 3 assists, two steals and two blocks.
Casio scattered 18 markers on 7 for 12 field goal shooting. The starting guard proved effective defensively but had no assists and 3 turnovers.
Rookie Chris Banchero played valuable minutes once more with 10 points off the bench along with 5 rebounds and 3 assists.
No other player from Alaska scored in double figures but a team effort led to a huge 61-point second half outburst that caught Star off guard.
"It's nice to win this game 1 and come back after that (bad first half) but I just wanted to see our identity asserted in the second half," Compton explained how he urged his team to assert themselves.
"We will lose lots of conference, we won't win every championship, we're not the most dominant team in the PBA. But we better play who we are and I thought our guys did in the second half."
Import Marqus Blakely had 23 points, 9 rebounds, two assists, 3 steals and 3 blocks for the Hotshots, which ended a 5-game winning streak dating back to the eliminations.
PJ Simon was on fire for the Star with 16 points on 6-of-9 field goals including 3 triples, while Mark Barroca contributed a double-double of 15 points, 10 rebounds and 3 assists.
James Yap added 13 points but went cold in the second half with just 3 markers.
Game 2 of the series will be on Friday, July 3.
Alaska 97 - TRavis 28, Casio 18, Banchero 10, Baguio 8, Abueva 8, Manuel 7, Dela Rosa 6, Hontiveros 6, Jazul 4, Thoss 2, Exciminiano 0, Menk 0, Dela Cruz 0.
Star 91 - Blakely 23, Simon 16, Barroca 15, Yap 13, Mallari 6, Devance 6, Pingris 4, Pennisi 4, Melton 2, Reavis 2, Taha 0.
Quarter scores: 16-26; 36-51; 70-70; 97-91.