• Challenger Aces aim to stretch lead in Game 2

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    Sonny Thoss, Chris Exciminiano and Vic Manuel of Alaska gang up on Yancy De Ocampo of San Miguel Beer in Game 1 of the best-of-seven finals of the PBA Philippine Cup at Araneta Coliseum on Sunday. PHOTO BY RUSSELL PALMA

    Sonny Thoss, Chris Exciminiano and Vic Manuel of Alaska gang up on Yancy De Ocampo of San Miguel Beer in Game 1 of the best-of-seven finals of the PBA Philippine Cup at Araneta Coliseum on Sunday. PHOTO BY RUSSELL PALMA

    Alaska is keen on stretching its lead to 2-0 when it faces defending champion San Miguel Beer at 7 p.m. tonight in Game 2 of best-of-seven finals of the Philippine Basketball Association Season 41 Philippine Cup at the Araneta Coliseum.

    The Aces scored a 100-91 come-from-behind win over the Beermen in the series opener. San Miguel Beer will again play without the 6’10 center June Mar Fajardo who is nursing a knee injury.

    “We need to win three more games. If you remember, we’re up by 1-0 in the last Philippine Cup and we lost that series,” said Alaska coach Alex Compton. “Hopefully, we can change our fate this time. We really need to be better than last year.”

    “It was a good win though. I would rather be up 1-0 and our defense was also great late in the fourth quarter,” added Compton. “But I really don’t want to make this out to be the end of the deal. We still need to win three more games.”

    Alaska lost last year’s Philippine Cup to San Miguel Beer in Game 7 despite winning the series opener.

    The Beermen, who are on a hunt for their 22nd overall title since joining the PBA in 1975 as one of the original founding members must face the onslaught of the Aces without Fajardo who averaged 15 rebounds and 26.7 points per game during the elimination and semifinals round.

    Without Fajardo, San Miguel Beer needs double effort from Arwind Santos, Gabby Espinas, Yancy De Ocampo, Jay-R Reyes, Ronald Tubid, Chris Ross, Alex Cabagnot, Chris Lutz, Marcio Lassiter and Ryan Arana to even the series.

    “We have a hard time defending them, we’ve out-rebounded them by 20, a lot of turnovers they made 23 points out of our turnovers. We must take care of the ball. In the final three minutes, turnovers killed us,” said San Miguel Beer coach Leo Austria.

    Austria is still hoping Fajardo can play in Game 3 on Friday, “June Mar could be back on Friday in Game 3 but not tomorrow [Game 2]. The findings of the doctor are good because there’s no serious injury on his left knee. He’ll be back.”

    “But if he’s not 100 percent, I will not let him play because I don’t like to aggravate his injury.”

    Alaska is expected to depend anew on Game 1 hero Vic Manuel who just equaled his career-high 24 points, Calvin Abueva, Chris Banchero, Jayvee Casio, RJ Jazul, Sonny Thoss, Dondon Hontiveros and Cyrus Baguio.

    This is the ninth time that Alaska and San Miguel Beer clash in the finals—and the third in the Philippine Cup. San Miguel Beer won three of its last four finals meetings with Alaska.

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