ALASKA clicked on both ends as usual as it tamed Barako Bull, 108-100, on Saturday to be assured of at least a playoff for an outright semifinal berth in the Smart Bro-PBA Philippine Cup at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
The Aces turned to their trademark defense that held the Energy to just 36-percent shooting, while leaning on another balanced attack led by Calvin Abueva and Vic Manuel to finish the elimination round with nine wins in 11 games, tying defending champion San Miguel Beer.
The Aces also denied their victims of a shot at a twice-to-beat advantage in the quarterfinals as the Energy finished with a 5-6 win-loss record, still an achievement after an offseason of questionable trades.
The result also meant Ginebra and Talk ‘N Text secured the quarterfinal incentive, reducing the matchup between the Gin Kings and the Tropang Texters on Sunday merely for positioning.
“If I had vote for coach of the conference, I’d vote for coach Koy (Banal). He’s done a tremendous job creating a winning atmosphere at Barako,” Aces coach Alex Compton said.
“Fortunately, we started the third quarter strong and created some separation and that was enough to carry us through the weather the run they had in the fourth,” he added.
Ahead by just two points at halftime, the Aces zoomed to a fast start and built a 16-point lead in the third quarter, before shrugging off a late Energy comeback that saw them nudge to within two points.
Abueva and Manuel finished above 20 points each to lead five Aces in double digits. Sonny Thoss was one of them, tallying 11 markers to move a point shy of joining the league’s 5,000-point club.
Willie Wilson sustained his solid play with 23 points, 14 boards, and four assists in a losing effort for the Energy.
ALASKA 108 – Abueva 22, Manuel 21, Baguio 11, Jazul 11, Thoss 11, Casio 9, Hontiveros 8, Banchero 7, Baclao 4, Dela Cruz 4, Dela Rosa 0, Exciminiano 0, Menk 0
BARAKO 100 – Wilson 23, Intal 15, Lanete 14, Urbiztondo 13, Monfort 12, Fortuna 10, Brondial 7, Miranda 3, Pennisi 3, Baracael 0, Forrester 0
Quarterscores: 23-30, 50-48, 82-70, 108-100