Alaska's defense carries them past gritty Meralco

MANILA, Philippines – Defense wins championships, or an elimination round game.

The Alaska Aces proved to be the better defensive team as they overcame the Meralco Bolts, 89-75, and rose to 6-2 in the 2015 PBA Governors' Cup on Tuesday, June 9 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

"I just thought our guys out there were flying defensively," head coach Alex Compton said.

Alaska had just 3 guys in double figures led by import Romeo Travis' 24 points, 18 rebounds, 4 assists and two blocks. Travis, an import the Aces bank on more for his scrappiness and aggressiveness than his offense, was efficient from the field going 8 for 14 on top of 8-of-11 free throws in nearly 36 minutes of play.

Guard JVee Casio scattered 11 points on 5-of-6 shooting including 4 assists, while rookie Chris Banchero added 10 points.

Import Andre Emmett produced 28 markers, 10 boards and 4 steals as Cliff Hodge contributed 12 points and 8 rebounds for the Bolts, which dropped to 4-4.

Asian import Seiya Ando had 11 while Gary David was cold from three-point range, missing all 7 of his attempts, but still chipped in 10 points and 3 steals.

Since taking over the coaching duties for Meralco in July last year, celebrated tactician Norman Black has steadily transformed the squad into a more formidable playoff contender this season.

Compton admitted going up against an equally gritty and tough defensive unit was a concern for him.

"That was my fear coming into this game. I don't recall too many games where Meralco was outworked. They usually out-hustle their opponents."

But the Aces held their own quite well.

They limited the Bolts to just 33% shooting from the field while going 46% themselves. They slowed down the pace of the game to neutralize Meralco's gunners, though at the expense of their own as both teams shot a combined 7 three-pointers all game.

Alaska won the battle of the boards, 52-44, though they committed 20 turnovers.

"Coach Norman has made this team, I think, one of the most consistently hardworking teams in the PBA," Compton said.

"I'm really happy, he added. "I thought our guys really gutted it out."

The Aces led from start to finish but were threatened, 67-65, after 3 quarters. However Dondon Hontiveros and Travis powered a 22-10 fourth quarter for Alaska to eventually build a 16-point edge late as they coasted to the victory. – Rappler.com