ALASKA stuck to what it does best as it hacked out an 85-81 victory over Tropang TNT on Tuesday night to force a do-or-die game in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup quarterfinal series.
The Aces turned to their suffocating pressure defense that translated into transition points as they dictated the tempo throughout to bounce back after losing Game One of the best-of-three series where they allowed the Texters to score 106 points.
Calvin Abueva led a balanced local effort after Rob Dozier was limited to a point in the payoff period, while RJ Jazul and Cyrus Baguio hit the insurance free throws for the Aces.
“Talk ‘N Text had eighty-one points,” Aces coach Alex Compton said. “I’m so happy with the way we defended.”
The deciding game is on Friday also at the Big Dome with the winner facing Meralco in a best-of-five series in the Final Four.
Abueva finished with 15 points, five boards, and three assists in 23 minutes off the bench as he put the Aces up for good at 80-79 after a leaning jumper with less than three minutes left.
Dozier led the Aces with 18 points and 10 boards, while Sonny Thoss added 15 and eight, and Jazul was the other player who scored in double figures with 10 markers.
The Aces’ defense was most evident on Troy Rosario, who was limited to just eight points on 2-of-7 shooting in 32 minutes after firing a career-high 31 points in the series opener.
But the Rookie of the Year candidate had the chance to win the game, only for his wide-open right-corner three-pointer with two seconds left to miss its mark.
“My heart dropped and it scared the life out of me,” Compton admitted.
David Simon had 31 points and 15 boards, while shrugging off an injury scare in the third quarter, all going for naught.
ALASKA 85 – Dozier 18, Thoss 15, Abueva 15, Jazul 10, Dela Cruz 9, Baguio 7, Manuel 4, Hontiveros 3, Banchero 2, Exciminiano 2, Baclao 0, Menk 0
TNT 81 – Simon 31, Castro 17, De Ocampo 15, Rosario 8, Tautuaa 7, Ababou 3, Fonacier 0, Rosser 0, Reyes R. 0, Reyes J. 0, Williams 0
Quarterscores: 20-16, 40-38, 67-63, 85-81