ALASKA stuck to what it does best as it stunned Star, 97-91, on Wednesday night to draw first blood in their PBA Governors’ Cup semifinal series at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
The Aces overhauled an early 18-point deficit behind their trademark suffocating pressure defense that turned into precious points on the way to the come-from-behind win that jumpstarted their best-of-five series.
Romeo Travis led the fightback, scoring 11 of his game-high 28 points in the third quarter, where the Aces erased a double-digit deficit and knotted the count heading in the final frame.
“I just wanted our identity to get asserted in the second half,” said Aces coach Alex Compton, whose team has earned a reputation as the comeback kids of the league. “And I thought our guys did.”
Game Two is on Friday also at the Big Dome.
It seemed the Aces, who have earned a reputation as the league’s comeback kids, fell behind on purpose so they could embark on a reversal job after staring at a 51-33 deficit late in the second quarter.
But the two-time defending champion Hotshots, who had won their last three games, just continued to ride their hot streak early with Marqus Blakely and James Yap leading the charge.
“They’re not our kuya. We played like we respect them too much,” Compton said. “But don’t get me wrong. Our very first building block is honor—we’ll honor our teammates, referees, our opponents, and our fans. Purefoods is great, but they’re not our kuya.”
The Aces’ finally refused to be bullied as they turned the tables in the third quarter and eventually the game that saw them force the Hotshots to 17 turnovers that translated into 10 turnover points and seven fast-break points.
Blakely finished with 23 points, nine boards, three steals, three blocks, and two assists, but Yap was held to three points in the second half after scattering 10 in the first two quarters, including three on a triple that gave them their biggest lead.
ALASKA 97 – Travis 28, Casio 18, Banchero 10, Baguio 8, Abueva 8, Manuel 7, Dela Rosa 6, Hontiveros 6, Jazul 4, Thoss 2, Exciminiano 0, Menk 0, Dela Cruz 0
STAR 91 – Blakely 23, Simon 16, Barroca 15, Yap 13, Mallari 6, Devance 6, Pingris 4, Pennisi 4, Melton 2, Reavis 2, Taha 0
Quarterscores: 16-26; 36-51; 70-70; 97-91