MANILA, Philippines – The Alaska Aces clinched the 8th and final playoff spot in the 2019 PBA Philippine Cup after tripping the NLEX Road Warriors, 88-80, on Friday, April 6, at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Sonny Thoss had a scintillating performance of 21 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, and 1 block in just 24:21 minutes of action to power the Aces in the do-or-die duel.
The Aces, though, take on a tougher assignment as they battle the No. 1 Phoenix Fuel Masters next in the quarterfinals on Sunday.
Team captain Jvee Casio came off the bench and injected 13 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 steals as the Aces thwarted the Road Warriors' comeback attempt.
Alaska and NLEX faced off in the winner-take-all after finishing the elimination round with identical 4-7 records.
Kenneth Ighalo paced NLEX with 16 points and 9 rebounds, but only shot 4-of-14 from the field.
It was in the 2nd quarter when the Aces completely separated themselves from the Road Warriors as they tightened up their defense and allowed NLEX to score just 8 points.
Alaska ended the 3nd period with a massive 10-0 run to erect a 19-point advantage, 44-25, before posting its biggest lead of the game, 69-41, after Casio knocked in a three-pointer at the 2:51 mark of the 3rd canto.
NLEX, though, didn't go out without a fight and unleashed an 11-3 run to trim the Aces’ edge to 10, 86-76, but their comeback bid fell short.
Alaska 88 – Thoss 21, Enciso 16, Cruz 16, Casio 13, Banchero 4, Baclao 4, Ayaay 4, Racal 3, Exciminiano 3, Teng 2, Potts 2, Pascual 0.
NLEX 80 – Ighalo 16, Galanza 14, Quinahan 13, Erram 10, Paniamogan 8, Magat 7, Rios 5, Baguio 3, Paredes 2, Tiongson 2, Taulava 0, Soyud 0, Tallo 0, Lao 0.
Quarters: 23-17, 44-25, 73-50, 88-80.
– Juro Morilla/Rappler.com