SOLID as a rock, Romeo Travis kept Alaska together in the face of a gallant comeback by Barangay Ginebra to lead the Aces to a 108-99 win and a share of the early lead in the PBA Governors Cup on Friday night.
The barrel-chested lefty with the picture-perfect fallaway jumper scored 34 and grabbed 16 while making 13 of 20 shots, serving as anchor as the Aces won their second straight game to join GlobalPort at the top of the standings.
The match, however, was by no means easy for the Aces who came under siege from the second quarter on by a Ginebra team that entered the game without its starting frontline of Greg Slaughter and Japeth Aguilar.
Prolific Orlando Johnson provided the inspiration and the points for Ginebra, which, after trailing 0-14 in the first seven minutes and trailing by as much as 21, came charging back to pull within a basket in the middle quarters.
Alaska coach Alex Compton admitted their game plan was geared towards defending against Slaughter and Aguilar, only to fnd out just before tip-off that Ginebra’s 'Twin Towers' won’t be able to play due to injuries.
“Our defense was tremendous at the start when we went up 14-0, but they (Gin Kings) really changed the game when they started to cut down the huge lead early by showing a lot of heart and resilience,” said Alaska coach Alex Compton.
“They forced us into some bad decisions, but in this game, it’s really tough for Ginebra if they are missing Greg and Japeth and Chris Ellis, too.”
Compton got a big lift from his bench players, who outscored their Ginebra counterparts, 53-29. With no Slaughter (right ankle sprain) or Aguilar (right hamstring) to man the paint for the Kings, Alaska dominated the boards, 47-34.
Johnson, a former Indiana Pacers guard who came in as a late replacement for Ginebra, scored 50 points for Ginebra - the highest in a debut game by an import since Purefoods' Darius Rice tallied 56 in the 2008 Fiesta Conference.
The wiry Johnson had 32 points during the middle two quarters that enabled Ginebra to close in at 60-58 after being down by as much as 21 points at 24-45.
But Johnson failed to get the much-needed local support. Veteran gunner Mark Caguioa was the lone double-figure scorer for Ginebra with 11 points.
Sol Mercado, one of Ginebra’s two new players this conference, debuted with eight points and eight assists while Mongolian import Sanchir Tungalag finished with eight points in 13 minutes in his PBA debut.
Alaska 108 - Travis 34, Hontiveros 11, Jazul 10, Abueva 9, Banchero 8, Menk 7, Manuel 6, Baguio 5, Exciminiano 5, Casio 5, Thoss 4, Dela Rosa 4.
Ginebra 99 - Johnson 50, Caguioa 14, Mercado 8, Helterbrand 8, Tungalag 8, Tenorio 3, Baracael 3, Marcelo 2, Brondial 2, Pena 1.
Quarterscores: 29-12, 54-45, 81-75, 108-99