Alaska pulls away late to take 2-0 PBA Finals lead

MANILA, Philippines – For a second straight game, the Alaska Aces flirted with fire. Despite playing another match without their best player and league MVP, the San Miguel Beermen were in the thick of things; an opportunity to steal a game against their rivals on the line.

But once again, Alaska managed to get enough shots and stops down the stretch to help them seal a 83-80 victory and go up 2-0 in the Philippine Cup Finals on Tuesday, January 19, at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Really glad to win that one, that’s for sure,” Alaska head coach Alex Compton said after his team won Game 2, in which they blew a 12-point first quarter lead and nearly lost when Ronald Tubid was left open for a game-winning 3-pointer.

“Great game play by [San Miguel] Coach Leo [Austria], well-executed. There were some obviously hairy moments that we had. I hope the fans enjoyed them because I didn’t.”

The Aces were led by the 18 points and 7 rebounds of Vic Manuel who had a costly turnover late but made up for it with a game-saving block on Yancy De Ocampo with seconds remaining in the contest. 

Dondon Hontiveros posted 12 points off the bench while Cyrus Baguio had 10, as the Aces shot 45% from the field but turned the ball over 20 times.

“A lot of things running through my mind, some of them I cannot say, but I’m very glad [we won],” Compton said.

San Miguel was led by the superb performance of Alex Cabagnot, who had 23 points on 9-of-15 shooting. De Ocampo also stepped up with clutch shots and 13 points plus 14 rebounds.

“I don’t think dehado sila (they’re done),” Compton said of the Beermen, who many expect to lose with Fajardo recuperating from a knee injury. “That’s a team of winners, a team of great players.”

San Miguel had a chance to steal a great win late, despite trailing 78-73 with 3:31 to go. 

The Beermen went on a 7-2 run - capped off by a Tubid 3-pointer - to tie the game at 80 with 1:47 remaining. Both teams then went scoreless for nearly an entire minute until a split at the foul line by Hontiveros made it 81-80 with 57 seconds to go.

Lassiter, who shot 4-of-15 for the game, then had a costly out of bounds turnover, but Alaska wasn’t able to convert after Calvin Abueva missed a jumper. On the loose ball, Sonny Thoss picked up his sixth foul of the game, giving De Ocampo two foul shots. Fortunately for the Aces, he missed both.

After a time-out, Alaska lost the ball after Lassiter swiped it from Manuel’s hands, although replays showed the Alaska big man may have been fouled. 

San Miguel then called a time-out and set up a well-executed play that led to the open Tubid 3-ball, but he missed.

“We call that one our screw-up and pray defense,” said Compton about the defensive lapse. “We’ve been working on that one for a while. Ang sagot lang diyan, ‘Malakas talaga ang dasal namin.’

(The answer there is we’re good at praying.)

De Ocampo was able to rebound Tubid’s miss, but Manuel blocked his follow-up attempt. After another Alaska time-out, the Aces got the ball to Manuel cleanly and he made both charities to extend his team’s lead to 83-80 with a second to go.

Cabagnot then missed a prayer from way downtown as time expired, sealing his team’s defeat.

“Super player. It would be great if we could say, ‘Wala yan dati, na-develop yan sa Alaska.’ Kaya lang, he was the MVP of the PBL and D-League,” Compton said about Manuel, Alaska’s leading scorer this conference.

“I’m really glad we got him,” Compton added, crediting his predecessor, Luigi Trillo, for attaining Manuel.

Game 3 is on Friday, January 22, in Lucena City. By going up 3-0, Alaska puts a chokehold on the series and gets a chance to take a step closer to their 15th franchise title.

“I know a lot of the guys on that team, personally, aside from the coaching staff. They have a tremendous coaching staff and they have players with a lot of heart,” Compton said, indicating San Miguel will continue to play well.

Scores:

Alaska (83): Manuel 18, Hontiveros 12, Baguio 10, Abueva 9, Jazul 7, Baclao 6, Banchero 6, Menk 6, Casio 5, Thoss 4, Dela Cruz 0, Exciminiano 0.

San Miguel (80): Cabagnot 23, De Ocampo 13, Lassiter 11, Santos 10, Lutz 6, Ross 6, Tubid 5, Espinas 4, Arana 2, Reyes 0.

Quarter scores: 23-18, 39-36, 62-60, 83-80 – Rappler.com