Aces snuff Star, gain share of top spot

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The Alaska Aces outplayed the Star Hotshots, 107-102, to gain a share of the top spot in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Philippine Cup 2016 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum on Tuesday.

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It was a close fight in the initial two quarters of the contest but after 10 lead changes before the break, Alaska posted a four-point advantage, 50-46.

The Hotshots attacked from beyond the arc in the third period following three converted triples by Justin Melton but the Aces retaliated with accurate shots to pull away after 36 minutes of play, 85-75.

Star fought valiantly in the head-to-head final moments of the last quarter to close the gap but a back-to-back breakaway baskets by Cyrus Baguio sealed the win for the Aces.

JV Casio finished with 24 points for the Aces while the frontcourt tandem of Vic Manuel and Sonny Thoss contributed a total of 29 markers and 10 boards.

Baguio capped off the game with 14 points while Calvin Abueva notched 13 points and eight rebounds.

James Yap led the Hotshots with 20 points off 43 percent shooting output while Melton finished with 18 points as their team absorbed its fifth loss in seven games.

According to Alaska coach Alex Compton, transition baskets gave them the push that they needed to bag their fifth win in the first conference of the league.

“We had a couple of late game transition buckets that really helped us,” he said.

In the first game, the NLEX Road Warriors defeated the Meralco Bolts, 93-91, to extend their win streak to two games and improve their record to four wins and two losses.

The Road Warriors banked on the solid opening quarter performance of sophomore guard Kevin Alas. Alas started strong with seven first quarter points allowing his team to post an early 24-18 lead.

NLEX was sluggish at the start of the second period while the Bolts continued to slice down the deficit. But veteran center Asi Taulava initiated a rally to extend their advantage to nine points toward halftime, 46-37.

Meralco came back with a vengeance in the third canto as the squad exploded for 30 points on the field. The Bolts were leading 65-67 going into the final 12 minutes of play.

It went down the line as Gary David connected from the three point line with just 9.8 seconds left in regulation with Meralco leading, 90-91.

The penalty situation worked to NLEX’s advantage as free throw conversions by Sean Anthony and Alas sealed the team’s slim victory over the Bolts.

Big man Taulava once again had a double-double performance, notching 22 points and 21 rebounds while Alas and Villanueva contributed 16 and 17 points, respectively.

High scoring Road Warrior Anthony managed to establish a notable record in spite of a slow start, posting 19 points and nine rebounds.

Rookie Chris Newsome led the Bolts with a total of 21 points off 61.54 percent performance on the field while David finished with 19 points.

“We’re happy to get two straight wins from our sister teams,” head coach Boyet Fer-nandez said after the match.

“Our defense really made it happen tonight, especially toward the end of the ball game.”

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