ALASKA refused to go through complications as it cruised past Phoenix, 106-85, to clinch an outright quarterfinal berth in the PBA Philippine Cup on Friday night at the Cuneta Astrodome.
Motivated by a team-building session at Hoops Center after their light practice on the eve of the game, the Aces established an early lead and hardly let up as they coasted to their second straight win and sixth in 10 games overall.
Kevin Racal, groomed as the Aces’ top perimeter defender, shone on offense with a career-high 20 points, on top of six boards, and three assists in 37 minutes, while Vic Manuel put on another efficient effort off the bench with a game-high 21 points and seven boards in 22 minutes.
The duo led a balanced effort for the Aces, who jumped to second spot in a tie with TNT Katropa – instead of dropping to as low as seventh had they lost.
The Aces also snapped the Fuel Masters’ two-game win streak as their victims dropped to a 6-5 win-loss record, although they’re already assured of a playoff spot.
“You can’t ask for much more than that,” Aces coach Alex Compton said. “There are still some things we can work on, but the guys played really hard. We got sloppy a little bit at the start of the third, but we showed some good decision-making, good mental toughness, and some really good energy.”
“I felt like there was a consistent threat of urgency for us,” he added.
RJ Jazul also delivered in a bench role, tallying 14 points built around four triples, six assists, four rebounds, and one steal in 23 minutes, while Jake Pascual added 10 points after making all his five shots, while also grabbing four caroms, and two assists as the Aces led by as many as 25 points
The game was so lopsided that the Aces had the luxury to limit the playing time of star Calvin Abueva, who played just 18 minutes, but still contributed seven points, four boards, four assists, three blocks, and one steal.
Matthew Wright paced the Fuel Masters with 18 points, eight boards, four assists, and one steal in 39 minutes in a losing effort.
Alaska 106 – Manuel 21, Racal 20, Jazul 14, Racal 10, Hontiveros 9, Abueva 7, Casio 7, Thoss 6, Magat 4, Exciminiano 4, Cruz 2, Mendoza 2, Galliguez 0, Dela Cruz 0
Phoenix 85 – Wright 18, W. Wilson 14, Baguio 13, Enciso 10, Borboran 8, Caperal 7, Intal 6, Alolino 3, J. Wilson 3, Torres 3, Hayes 0, Lanete 0, Miranda 0
Quarterscores: 25-19, 60-42, 82-65, 106-85