IN-FORM Alaska smashed a disorganized Meralco five, 87-69, to earn the right to face Rain or Shine in the PBA Philippine Cup semifinals on Sunday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Dondon Hontiveros sparked Alaska's strong start with four three-pointers while the Aces' defense held Meralco to its second lowest output in a half, resulting in a huge 47-25 edge at halftime.
Alaska never eased up on the pedal in the second half, with Vic Manuel and Cyrus Baguio providing the fireworks from inside and out to book the Aces’ second straight semifinal appearance under rookie coach Alex Compton.
Manuel earned the Best Player of the game honors after narrowly missing out on a double-double with 17 points and nine rebounds while shooting an efficient 8-of-10 from the field.
“I think the story of the game was yung umpisa namin, pag isang half ang kalaban mo, naka-25 points lang, malaking tsansa mo manalo,” said Compton, whose team opened the playoffs with an 82-78 win over 10th seed NLEX.
Compton commended the Aces for their superlative defensive effort which held the Bolts to just 36 percent shooting.
“Ang gusto ko sa mga players ng Alaska, napakasipag nila. Kasi kung ano ang ginagawa nila rito (in the game), 'yun ang ginagawa nila (sa practice),” he said.
Meralco, which ousted grand slam champion Purefoods Star, 79-65 in the first phase of the playoffs last Wednesday, failed to get anything from its veterans.
Sean Anthony, the Bolts’ hard-banging forward, scored 11 points, but he only shot 4-of-12 from the field. On the other hand, Gary David was held to just eight points on 3-of-10 from the floor.
Jared Dillinger finished with only two points.
In contrast, Manuel was just one of four Aces in double figures, with Baguio banging in 15 points, Hontiveros 13 and JV Casio in 11.