ALASKA started the New Year with a bang, frustrating Rain or Shine, 79-76, on Sunday at the Mall of Asia Arena to arrange a PBA Philippine Cup Finals showdown against San Miguel Beer.
Dondon Hontiveros led the way for the Aces, especially in the clutch, waxing hot in the stretch by burying back-to-back three-pointers – one that knotted the count and another to give Alaska the lead for good.
In all, the Cebuano hotshot fired all but two of his 17 points in the payoff period—all from beyond the arc as Calvin Abueva and Sonny Thoss ably provided support with 15 and 11 markers, respectively.
But it was defense that preserved the hard-earned victory that wrapped up the best-of-seven series in six games as the Aces forced the Elasto Painters to 14 misses from beyond the arc, including Jeff Chan’s desperation potential overtime-sending three-point attempt.
“That’s our identity,” Aces coach Alex Compton said. “Kailangan defensive team muna kami. I’m just proud of these guys.”
The Aces and Beermen, who swept Talk ‘N Text in the other Final Four pairing, begin their Finals series on Wednesday at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
It was also defense that allowed the Aces to gain the upper hand early as they erased an early deficit and limited the Painters to just 28 points at the half.
But the Painters, eager to send the series to a deciding Game Seven, turned the game around in the third quarter, where they outscored the Aces, 32-20. Chan led the rally, firing two triples and scoring nine of his output in that time frame.
Hontiveros negated Chan’s onslaught with his own explosion in the final frame, where he fired five treys en route to the victory.
ALASKA 79 – Hontiveros 17, Abueva 15, Thoss 11, Baguio 6, Manuel 6, Menk 6, Jazul 5, Exciminiano 4, Dela Cruz 4, Casio 3, Banchero 2, Eman 0, Dela Rosa 0, Espinas 0
ROS 76 – Chan 14, Almazan 11, Uyloan 9, Arana 9, Belga 9, Lee 7, Ibanes 6, Norwood 4, Tang 4, Quinahan 3, Teng 0, Tiu 0, Cruz 0
Quarterscores: 20-16, 36-28, 56-60, 79-76