Aces boost playoff drive

March 20, 2019
Cliff Hodge
Cliff Hodge of Meralco slips past Sonny Thoss of Alaska in this shot taken in the first quarter of their game last night. (PBA Images)

ALASKA came through with an awesome offensive as it outplayed Meralco, 92-77, in a crucial victory that bolstered its playoff bid in the PBA Philippine Cup on Wednesday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

In notching their fourth win in nine outings, the Aces not only halted their three-game slump, but also boosted their bid to make the 8-team quarterfinal round.

The Aces could even improve to higher positions since they still have two more games to play, including against San Miguel Beer on Sunday, and against NorthPort in the penultimate playdate of the 11-game elimination round on Wednesday (March 27).

The Bolts on the other hand suffered their second straight setback just when they were badly needing a win, and their seventh loss overall in 10 outings put them in great danger of missing out the playoff in the tournament they played twice in the final last two seasons.

Entering the third with a 45-38 bulge, the Aces unloaded a telling 13-5 scoring run highlighted by three triples to post a 58-53 lead which they gamely protected the rest of the way.

The Bolts tried to stage a comeback in the fourth period, but came to no closer than at 78-70, on a triple by Nico Salva with less than six minutes remaining.

Baskets by Jeron Teng, Carl Bryan Cruz and Kevin Racal enabled the Aces to thwart the Bolts’ surge and restore  their 15-point lead at 87-72, with over three minutes left.

The Aces opened up with a 13-3 lead behind baskets from Sonny Thoss, Jeron Teng, Carl Bryan Cruz, and Chris Banchero, but the Bolts didn’t allow the Alaska momentum to progress.

Chris Newsome led a quick retaliation by Meralco which enabled the Bolts to narrow the gap in an instant, 19-16, late in the opening quarter.

The Bolts’ momentum persisted to kick off the second period with two straight three-point plays and a three-point shot as Meralco posted a 25-20 lead, sending Alaska to sue for time.

The strategy worked which resulted into the Aces outscoring the Bolts anew, 14-5, highlighted by three straight triples, including two from Simon Enciso and one from Banchero, for a 34-30 lead.

The Aces then sustained their offensive, this time with Teng, Kevin Racal and JV Casio delivering the points as Alaska made it 45-38 at the end of the first half.

The scores:

Alaska (92) - Teng 16, Enciso 14, Banchero 13, Thoss 13, Casio 12, Racal 9, Cruz 7, Pascual 6, Baclao 2, Exciminiano 0, Ayaay 0.

Meralco (77) - Salva 23, Canaleta 18, Newsome 11, Amer 8, Quinto 5, Tolomia 4, Hodge 3, Hugnatan 2, Pinto 2, Jackson 1, Caram 0, Faundo 0.

Quarterscores: 20-16, 45-38, 69-57, 92-77.