THERE seems to be no hole that’s too deep to climb out of for Alaska.
Once again, it’s the Aces’ vaunted defense that came to the rescue as they frustrated San Miguel Beer, 78-70, in Game Three on Sunday to regain the lead in their PBA Philippine Cup Finals series at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
After erasing a 22-point lead in Game One, the Aces overhauled a 21-point second-half deficit this time, with their stingy full-court pressure again a major factor that led to a backbreaking run in the final frame.
Calvin Abueva, Sonny Thoss, JVee Casio, and Ping Exciminiano provided the spark for the Aces, whose telling 20-1 salvo in the first seven minutes of the fourth quarter turned the match around.
“They just never give up,” Aces coach Alex Compton said. “Lahat talaga nagsisimula sa depensa namin and our defensive intensity in the fourth was just overwhelming. It was incredible.”
Game Four is on Wednesday.
In taking a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven title series, Alaska set another benchmark by holding the Beermen to six points in the final quarter - the lowest in the playoffs in the SMC flagship team's 40-year history.
In all, the Aces outscored the Beermen, 32-6, in the fourth quarter and beat them off the boards, 21-8, while their defense forced SMB to six turnovers.
For a while, though, the Beermen looked poised for another breakaway win after taking Game Two, 100-86, as they built a 61-40 cushion near the end of the third quarter.
But the Aces clawed back by limiting the Beermen to just one made field goal the entire payoff period as SMB wound up with its worst shooting (1-of-15) in a fourth quarter in franchise history.
Abueva fired a game-high 16 points, JVee Casio scored all his 11 points in the second half, while Thoss added 10 markers, including eight in the fourth quarter.
'The Beast' also outrebounded the entire San Miguel team in the fourth quarter, 10-8, according to PBA chief statistician Fidel Mangonon III.
Exciminiano, the pesky, diminutive guard, capped the Aces’ 20-1 run with four straight points, the last two on the charity stripe that gave them a 66-65 lead with a little over five minutes to go, leaving the SMB gallery in the crowd of almost 14,000 stunned.
Arwind Santos led the Beermen’s third-quarter onslaught by scoring 11 of his 20 in the period that went for naught.
ALASKA 78 – Abueva 16, Casio 11, Thoss 10, Exciminiano 8, Hontiveros 8, Baguio 7, Jazul 7, Manuel 6, Eman 3, Banchero 2, Dela Cruz 0, Menk 0, Dela Rosa 0, Espinas 0
SMB 70 – Santos 20, Fajardo 13, Cabagnot 7, Lassiter 7, Ross 6, Semerad 4, Lutz 3, Fortuna 3, Tubid 3, Kramer 2, Omolon 2, Maierhofer 0, Pascual 0, Chua 0
Quarterscores: 13-8, 27-35, 46-64, 78-70