ALASKA turned on the heat in the second half behind Cyrus Baguio and Calvin Abueva to hack out a 93-88 victory over Rain or Shine and grab a 3-2 lead in their PBA Philippine Cup semifinals on Saturday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Down by as many as 19 points due to their 19 first-half turnovers, the Aces patiently worked their way back into the game then held on in the final minutes as Rain or Shine kept firing blanks from the outside.
While Alaska outscored Rain or Shine, 35-20 in the third period, it was the hustle plays of Abueva off the boards and Baguio’s crucial jumpers that kept the Elasto Painters at bay in the endgame.
Baguio scored a three-pointer then buried a turnaround jumper over Paul Lee’s outstretched arm to give Alaska some breathing room, 92-85, with 1:52 to go in the game.
Rain or Shine shot itself in the foot with its decision to settle for three-point shots in the endgame, with the Elasto Painters missing their last six attempts – four from Jonathan Uyloan and two from Lee.
“Still not great for my heart or gray hair, but I think that’s just the fortitude of the guys,” Alaska coach Alex Compton said in crediting his players for working their way back from the first-half deficit.
The two teams now take a long break before the Aces try to wrap up their first finals appearance since winning the 2013 Commissioner's Cup when Game Six is played on January 4 at the Mall of Asia Arena.
“Again, we emphasized a lot of stuff. We learned stuff from (Rain or Shine) coach Yeng (Guiao) because they played the same all the time, and we want to keep playing hard when we’re down,” Compton said.
As in the first four games of the series, Alaska’s huge frontline dominated Rain or Shine off the boards, taking a 65-52 rebounding advantage.
Baguio led the Aces with 16, 12 coming in the second half, while Abueva registered his ninth double-double for the conference after finishing with 16 and 11 rebounds.
Sonny Thoss and Vic Manuel chipped in 13 points apiece, while Dondon Hontiveros added 11 in a balanced scoring attack.
Raymond Almazan led the Elasto Painters with 16 points and nine rebounds, while Lee added 14, though he shot just 5-of-14 in the game overall.
Alaska 93 - Baguio 16, Abueva 16, Thoss 13, Manuel 13, Hontiveros 11, Menk 7, Banchero 5, Casio 5, Exciminiano 2, Dela Cruz 2, Eman 0, Dela Rosa 0, Espinas 0.