ALASKA delivered when it mattered most to frustrate shorthanded San Miguel Beer, 100-91, and draw first blood in their PBA Philippine Cup Finals series on Sunday at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
The Aces saw the Beermen put up a worthy challenge despite missing injured June Mar Fajardo, before clawing back from a 12-point deficit early in the the fourth quarter to pull off the reversal in Game One.
Game Two of the best-of-seven series is on Tuesday also at the Big Dome.
“San Miguel handled us most of the game and I didn’t like the way we’re playing,” Aces coach Alex Compton admitted. “It’s a hard adjustment to have the most dominant big man in the nation to be suddenly out and prepare.”
“(But) I love my guys’ resilience,” the American mentor added. “We strung together a bunch of stops and then we scored on the other end.”
Vic Manuel led the comeback, firing 14 of his game-high 24 points in the final frame, where Chris Banchero scored seven of his 15 markers for the Aces, who, as expected, turned to their suffocating defense that translated into easy transition points to come close and eventually turn the game around.
Alex Cabagnot tallied a team-high 20 points, including a three-pointer that knotted the count one last time at 91, before the Aces scored nine unanswered points, capped by a Cyrus Baguio breakaway tip dunk, to finish off the Beermen.
Arwind Santos chipped in just four points after missing all but two of his 11 shots before fouling out with over three minutes left.
Yancy de Ocampo started in place of Fajardo and contributed 18 points, including a triple that gave SMB its biggest lead at 78-66 that opened the payoff period.
Alaska 100 - Manuel 24, Baguio 16, Banchero 15, Abueva 12, Exciminiano 6, Jazul 6, Casio 5, Hontiveros 5, Menk 5, Thoss 4, Baclao 2, Dela Rosa 0.
San Miguel 91 - Cabagnot 20, Lassiter 19, De Ocampo 18, Tubid 13, Espinas 11, Arana 4, Santos 4, Ross 2, Lutz 0, Semerad 0.
Quarters: 11-4, 42-38, 75-66, 100-91