ALASKA found itself in a favorable position early for a change and knew how to protect it until the end.
Drawing significant production from their role players, the Aces rolled past Star, 95-74, on Friday night to take a commanding 2-0 lead in their PBA Governors’ Cup semifinal series at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
Seldom-used Noy Baclao and Ping Exciminiano provided unlikely contribution off the bench to ably support import Romeo Travis for the Aces, who had to fall to an early hole before taking Game One, 97-91.
Defense again proved to be a major a factor for the Aces, who limited the Hotshots to 33 points in the second half and 38-percent (26-of-68) shooting overall to move on the verge of sweeping the best-of-five series and a place in the season-ending title series.
“Defense is really about character,” Aces coach Alex Compton said. “If we can give up just thirty-three points in one half, then we always have a chance.”
The Aces can go for a sweep or the Hotshots stay alive in Game Three on Sunday also at the Big Dome.
Travis led a balanced effort that saw nine Aces score at least seven points as the hardworking import scored 19 points that went with 14 boards, four assists, and three steals.
But it was two defensive-minded subs in Baclao and Exciminiano who shone brightest with their timely offensive production to help the Aces turn a close battle into a blowout.
Baclao tallied 10 points as he made all his five shots, on top of five boards, and one assist in 17 minutes, while Exciminiano added the same output, highlighted by two rare three-pointers, two boards, and two assists in 14 minutes.
Marqus Blakely registered a team-high 19 points, eight boards, three assists, two steals, and two blocks, but was held to two points in the final frame.
PJ Simon took the cudgels by firing 10 of his 17 points in a fourth-quarter Hotshots’ rally that did little to prevent the rout.
ALASKA 95 – Travis 19, Abueva 11, Baclao 10, Exciminiano 10, Banchero 9, Manuel 9, Baguio 8, Hontiveros 8, Casio 7, Thoss 4, Dela Rosa 0, Jazul 0
STAR 74 – Blakely 19, Simon 17, Yap 10, Mallari 8, Pingris 7, Pennisi 5, Melton 3, Barroca 3, Devance 2, Taha 0, Maliksi 0
Quarterscores: 23-23, 47-41, 71-58, 95-74