MANILA, Philippines – The Alaska Aces unleashed 61 points in the second half to complete a 28-point turnaround against the Barako Bull Energy, 101-95, in the 2015 PBA Governors’ Cup on Saturday, June 13 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Import Romeo Travis led Alaska’s furious comeback with 23 points, including 12 in the momentum-shifting third, along with 14 rebounds, 5 assists and a block. Rookie playmaker Chris Banchero proved consistent throughout the contest as he scattered 20 points, 4 assists and 7 rebounds.
Calvin Abueva finished with 16 points and 7 rebounds on top of his usual unquantifiable energy. RJ Jazul had 11 points, 6 boards and 3 dimes for the Aces, which climbed to 7-2 and tied for first place with San Miguel Beer.
“It’s just something we emphasized from the very start of this game,” Alaska head coach Alex Compton spoke of the challenge he knew his team would face going up against the once league-leading Barako Bull. “I really thought coming in this might be the hardest game of our conference.”
The Aces were indeed challenged as the Energy brought the game to the Philippine Cup finalists early and built a commanding 60-42 lead at the half.
But Barako Bull unraveled in the third as Alaska launched its rally, and ultimately sputtered to just 16 and 17 points in the last two quarters after a huge first half offensively.
“My feeling is we had about as bad a first half as I thought we could have had,” admitted Compton, who walked dejectedly, his head hung low, back to the locker rooms at halftime. “It was really ugly in the first half.”
But during that walk, Compton found encouragement in hearing Romeo “lightening his teammates up.”
“He showed great leadership,” said Compton of his import, who led the third frame surge that changed the complexion of the game in Alaska’s favor.
The Aces threatened at 71-70 with 2:13 to go in the third on an open Jazul three-pointer, but Chico Lanete countered with his own wide-open trey to stretch Barako’s lead again to 74-70.
An RR Garcia triple sent the Energy to an 81-74 advantage to open the last frame but the defiant Aces later stormed ahead for good on a Banchero breakaway, 82-81, with 8:31 left.
Garcia connected on a deep three-pointer with 1:33 to go for Barako Bull’s last stand, but JVee Casio, whose total 8 points all came in the fourth, snuffed out the Energy’s hopes with a booming triple of his own.
“I said at halftime, ‘I don’t care about the result anymore. But it better be that the team we coach, the team that we are shows up out there,’ and they did,” Compton said.
Five guys scored in double figures for the now 6-3 Barako Bull with import Liam McMorrow posting 26 points and 15 rebounds. Garcia had 19 on 4 for 7 from downtown as Lanete and Yeo had 18 points each.
Yeo, who scored 5 straight down the stretch to bolster Barako’s own comeback attempt, also had 6 rebounds and 4 assists as he recovered from a scoreless night in a loss to KIA. JC Intal chipped in 10 points as the Energy dropped two games in a row.
Compton was particularly satisfied with how Alaska limited the 7-foot-2 McMorrow on the boards, as he was their major concern especially down the stretch.
“They have a huge force in McMorrow and we couldn’t leave Romeo by himself down there to get into a jumping contest against a 7-footer,” he explained his instructions to the Aces in the payoff period as they outscored the Energy, 29-17.
“So [I told] our guards to better swarm him in and if there’s penetration, the next guy should be helping and the other is sprinting to cover on the shooters.”
Both teams are racing to earn a spot in the top 4, which will guarantee a twice-to-beat edge in the quarterfinals.
Alaska 101 - Travis 23, Banchero 20, Abueva 16, Jazul 11, Dela Rosa 9, CAsio 8, Manuel 6, Baguio 4, Exciminiano 4, Thoss 0, BAclao 0, Hontiveros 0, Eman 0, Menk 0, Dela Cruz 0.
Barako Bull 95 - McMorrow 26, Garcia 19, Yeo 18, Lanete 18, Intal 10, Wilson 2, Ababou 2, Hubalde 0, Pascual 0, Maiergofer 0.
Quarter scores: 17-32; 40-62; 72-78; 101-95.