ALASKA booked the final quarterfinal spot in the 2019 PBA Philippine Cup after handily beating NLEX, 88-80, on Friday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Sonny Thoss set the tone by scoring 21 points for the Aces, who clinched the eighth and final quarterfinal slot even after losing five of their last six elimination-round matches.
Ater eliminating the Road Warriors, the Aces won't have it any easier as they face top-seed and twice-to-beat Phoenix Pulse in the quarterfinals.
Alaska made its move early, outscoring NLEX, 21-8, in the second quarter. The Aces finished the first half with 10 straight points that made it 44-25 at halftime.
“Our defense was fantastic in the first half,” said Alaska coach Alex Compton. “Obviously, we were fortunate to get them after having them play Magnolia on Wednesday. So we had fresher legs.
“It has been a tough conference for both of us. I think NLEX is better than the conference they’ve had. I think we are better than the conference that we’ve had but sometimes, the cards are dealt a certain way and you just have to deal with them. It just happened that our hand was a little bit better,” Compton added.
Simon Enciso and Carl Bryan Cruz scored 16 points each for the Aces while JVee Casio had 13 points and six rebounds.
Kenneth Ighalo had 16 points at the end of a disappointing campaign for the Road Warriors, who fell out of the race for the playoffs after losing their last three games.
Alaska 88 – Thoss 21, Enciso 16, Cruz 16, Casio 13, Banchero 4, Baclao 4, Ayaay 4, Exciminiano 3, Racal 3, Teng 2, Potts 2, Pascual 0.
NLEX 80 – Ighalo 16, Galanza 14, Quinahan 13, Erram 10, Paniamogan 8, Magat 7, Rios 5, Baguio 3, Tiongson 2, Paredes 2, Lao 0, Soyud 0, Tallo 0, Taulava 0.
Quarters: 23-17; 44-25; 73-50; 88-80.