Alaska capitalized on a strong second half play to post a 76-70 win over Meralco in the do-or-die Game 5 of the best-of-five semifinals of the Philippine Basketball Association Season 41 Commissioner’s Cup at the Araneta Coliseum on Wednesday.
Forward Calvin Abueva notched 14 of his 19 points in the second half on 7-of-12 shooting in the field in addition to eight rebounds, three assists and two steals. Guard Chris Banchero contributed 18 points, import Robert Dozier 14 points along with 18 rebounds and two steals, RJ Jazul had nine points while Sonny Thoss posted eight points for the Aces.
“Proud of the guys,” said Alaska coach Alex Compton during the postgame interview. “We have erased the pain, grieved and moved on. JV [Casio] not playing, Vic [Manuel] and Eric Menk’s injured. Meralco is tough and they’re well coached.”
My guys stepped up and showed great resolve today. Feeling is one really of pride on those young men and not so young men who’ve don the Alaska uniform. Rain or Shine is a different team they’re a sort of a model, they’re playing so well so fast with great confidence.”
Jared Dillinger led Meralco with 18 points and five rebounds.
Alaska will meet Rain or Shine in Game 1 of the best-of-seven finals that will start on Friday at the same venue.
Alaska and Meralco engaged in a tight contest in the early part of the game with the score at 22-all. Onuaku started hot tallying nine points on 4-of-5 attempts in the field at the end of the first frame.
Sonny Thoss and the 6’9 Dozier posted a combined output of 12 points also in the opening frame.
The Bolts managed to outscore the Aces by mere two points, 17-15, in the second period resulting in a slim 39-37 advantage at the halftime break.
Although beaten by the Aces in rebound 24-20 at halftime, the Bolts registered more assists, 11-5. Meralco also had a higher shooting percentage (47 percent- 40 percent) than Alaska in the first half.
The Aces finally achieved dominance in the third frame through a 19-11 run resulting in 56-50 lead entering the fourth quarter. Dozier and Abueva produced a combined 12 points in the third canto while the rest of the Aces took care of defense limiting the Bolts to only 11 points in that quarter.
Abueva scored a basket in the last 1:51 to give the Aces a one-point lead 68-67.
In the nerve-wracking fourth quarter, combo guard RJ Jazul scored four free throws to extend Alaska’s lead to 72-67 with only 27 ticks remaining in the game.
The Bolts scored only one point in five attempts allowing the Aces to seal their victory with a six-point buffer.
Before the game commenced, a moment of silence was observed for the eternal repose of the late PBA commentator Emy Arcilla who passed away recently at the age of 70. Arcilla was the league’s first commentator during its first season in 1975 until the early 1980’s.