ALASKA leaned on a strong finish kick to outsteady a shorthanded Star side, 100-92, and clinch a berth in the playoffs of the PBA Commissioner’s Cup on Saturday at the University of Southeastern Philippines gym in Davao.
The Aces saw themselves in a nip-and-tuck affair against a Hotshots side missing James Yap, before pouncing on their opponents’ miscues to break loose and score the victory that snapped a two-game skid.
Calvin Abueva led the late push with nine points in the last six minutes off sheer hustle and athleticism to lead the Aces, who jacked up their win-loss record to 6-3, while leaving a huge dent on the Hotshots’ playoff chances after falling to 4-6.
“I knew it’s going to be a really tough game. Star’s really kind of back to the strong team everybody knows they are,” Aces coach Alex Compton said. “But we’ve had three bad games in a row and we really needed to come out and play hard this game.”
The result also enabled idle leader Meralco (6-2) to formalize its entry to the postseason.
Abueva finished with a game-high 21 points and six boards in just 23 minutes off the bench to lead a balanced effort that negated Ricardo Ratliffe’s dominant showing of 34 points and 20 boards.
The Hotshots pulled to within one, 82-81, after a Ratliffe basket with a little over six minutes left, before the Aces banked on a 14-6 run to extend their lead back to nine points, enough cushion to secure the win.
Chris Banchero added 15 points, including a free throw that put the Aces up, 96-87, with over a minute left to play, while four more Aces scored at least nine points each.
ALASKA 100 – Abueva 21, Banchero 15, Thoss 13, Baguio 11, Edwards 10, Jazul 9, Hontiveros 7, Dela Cruz 4, Manuel 4, Baclao 2, Dela Rosa 2, Menk 2, Eman 0, Exciminiano 0, Racal 0
STAR 92 – Ratliffe 34, Maliksi 15, Pingris 14, Simon 10, Barroca 8, Melton 6, Pingris 3, Sangalang 2, Cruz 0, Mallari 0
Quarterscores: 19-14, 38-38, 68-70, 100-92