ALASKA came through on both ends in the clutch to outsteady Star, 107-102, and regain a share of the Smart Bro-PBA Philippine Cup lead on Tuesday night at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
The Aces saw a double-digit lead almost disappear, but held on thanks to a couple of sneaky transition baskets, while getting the benefit of some lucky breaks down the stretch to pull off their fifth win in six games that tied them with pace-setting San Miguel Beer.
Last year's all-Filipino Cup losing finalists also dealt the Hotshots a third straight setback and fifth overall against two wins.
“They (Hotshots) did a great job coming back,” Aces coach Alex Compton said. “We just squeaked by that one.”
JVee Casio flashed his old form, tallying 24 points on a perfect 4-of-4 clip from beyond the three-point arc on top of four assists, and three boards as the veteran playmaker negated a late turnover that led to the late scare.
Casio led another balanced effort for the Aces, who had five players who scored in double-digits after having a remarkable eight double-figure scorers in their blowout win over GlobalPort last Friday.
James Yap registered a team-high 20 points, including eight in the final frame as he conspired with Marc Pingris in the Hotshots’ late rally, but the former fumbled the leather in the team’s last offensive possession where they could’ve forced overtime.
Scoreless in the first quarter, Casio heated up in the third where he scattered 14 of his output as the Aces threatened to pull away.
But the Hotshots managed to close the gap, only to commit costly errors – some of their 25 turnovers – that hastened their downfall.
ALASKA 107 – Casio 24, Manuel 17, Baguio 14, Abueva 13, Thoss 12, Hontiveros 7, Jazul 5, Baclao 4, Banchero 4, Dela Cruz 3, Dela Rosa 2, Menk 2, Exciminiano 0
STAR 102 – Yap 20, Melton 18, Pingris 17, Sangalang 10, Simon 9, Barroca 8, Maliksi 7, Mallari 7, Taha 4, Pascual J. 2, Pascual R. 0, Alvarez 0
Quarterscores: 21-20, 50-46, 85-75, 107-102