ALASKA kept its improbable comeback bid alive as it frustrated Rain or Shine, 86-78, on Sunday night at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum to extend the PBA Commissioner’s Cup Finals series further.
The Aces thrived with their backs against the wall anew, turning to what they do best as they held the Elasto Painters to their lowest output in four conferences to notch second straight win and cut their opponents’ lead to 3-2.
The Aces can drag the series to a deciding game with a win in Game Six on Wednesday also at the Big Dome.
“It doesn’t change my opinion of Rain or Shine being the best offensive team in the league, but it makes me really proud of my guys the way they played defense,” Aces coach Alex Compton said. “That’s where our identity is.”
Calvin Abueva provided the energy and pumped in a game-high 20 points, including 10 in the payoff period and four straight in a stretch in the last two minutes that proved to be the insurance points for the Aces.
The Aces were trailing most of the match, but put up a spirited stand in the final frame, taking the lead for good at 72-69 after a Dondon Hontiveros three-point play with over six minutes left that set the stage for the nip-and-tuck finish.
JR Quinahan led a late Elasto Painters rally, scoring all but two of his nine points in the fourth, including three on a triple that pulled them to within four, 80-76, with a little over two minutes left.
But then Abueva scored on a reverse off a feed by RJ Jazul, then followed it up with a floater in the next possession with 1:15 to go to virtually seal the deal.
The Aces’ solid finish made up for an early collapse that saw them squander an early 13-4 lead after the E-Painters finished the first quarter on a 15-2 run to establish a lead they maintained until early in the fourth quarter.
Rob Dozier scored eight of his 14 points in the fourth, on top of eight boards, three blocks, and three steals in 39 minutes.
ROS counterpart Pierre Henderson-Niles, however, continued his offensive woes as he contributed only six points and committed five turnovers against eight boards in 27 minutes, as Jeff Chan and Paul Lee carried most of the offensive burden that went for naught.
ALASKA 86 – Abueva 20, Dozier 14, Jazul 13, Hontiveros 12, Baguio 11, Banchero 6, Racal 5, Baclao 2, Thoss 2, Dela Rosa 1
ROS 78 – Chan 17, Lee 16, Quinahan 9, Cruz 8, Ponferada 8, Henderson Niles 6, Norwood 5, Belga 4, Almazan 2, Ibanes 2, Ahanmisi 1, Tiu 0
Quarterscores: 15-19, 37-40, 56-57, 86-78