MANILA, Philippines – Twice-to-beat Alaska arrested a near-4th-quarter meltdown to topple Magnolia, 89-78, at the Araneta Coliseum on Tuesday, July 10, and advance to the semifinals of the 2018 PBA Commissioner's Cup.
Vic Manuel stretched his streak of scoring at least 20 points to 11 games with a game-high of 22 points on top of 9 rebounds for the Aces, who nearly blew a 16-point lead when the Hotshots threatened a comeback in the final frame.
Back-to-back Jio Jalalon and Mark Barroca jumpers trimmed Magnolia's deficit to 4 points, 78-82, with 3:30 left in the 4th before Manuel and Chris Banchero took turns for a game-clinching 7-0 run.
Manuel sank a floater to end the Aces' scoring drought and then drilled in a jumper with 1:30 remaining in the clock to stick the dagger right through the Hotshots' hopes of forging a rubber match.
This is the first time Alaska advanced into the Final 4 since the 2016 edition of the mid-season conference.
"I miss the semis," Alaska head coach Alex Compton said after the game. "Usually had a good relationship with the semis in Alaska. I don't know about this year but we'll see. But I'm just so happy to be back."
Banchero finished with 14 points, 4 rebounds and 3 assists while import Diamon Simpson delivered a double-double of 13 points, 15 rebounds, 4 assists, 4 steals and two blocks in the win.
Sonny Thoss and Kevin Racal made their presence felt for Alaska, adding 11 and 10 points, respectively, and combining for 9 rebounds and 3 assists.
Hobbled by foul trouble, Wayne Chism still finished with 20 points and 15 rebounds but those were not enough for the Hotshots, who made it into the Final 4 of the last 4 conferences, to extend their semifinals streak.
Ian Sangalang was the only other Magnolia player to breach double figures with the Aces' patented defense limiting key cogs Barroca and Paul Lee to 9 and 8 points, respectively.
The Aces wait for the winner of the best-of-3 quarterfinals series between rivals TNT KaTropa and San Miguel Beermen. San Miguel leads the series, 1-0.
Alaska (89): Manuel 22, Banchero 14, Simpson 13, Thoss 11, Racal 10, Exciminiano 7, Enciso 4, Cruz 3, Casio 2, Teng 2, Baclao 1
Magnolia (78): Chism 20, Sangalang 14, Barroca 9, Lee 8, Jalalon 8, Simon 6, Ramos 6, dela Rosa 5, Brondial 2, Herndon 2, Reavis 0, Melton 0
Quarter scores: 26-21, 46-43, 78-62, 89-78
Delfin Dioquino dreamt of being a PBA player, but he did not have the skills to make it. So he pursued the next best thing to being an athlete – to write about them. He took up journalism at the University of Santo Tomas and joined Rappler as soon as he graduated in 2017.