A RESOLUTE Alaska squad refused to extend its PBA Governors’ Cup semifinals series against Star any further as the Aces frustrated the Hotshots, 82-77, on Sunday night to book the first ticket to the Finals of the season-ending conference at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
Like they always do, the Aces bucked a slow start then engaged the two-time defending champions into a nip-and-tuck, before prevailing to deny their victims of defending the only silverware left in their grand slam season.
Romeo Travis and Vic Manuel knocked down the biggest shots down the stretch to lift the Aces to a stunning sweep of the best-of-five series, securing for themselves a second finals appearance in three conferences.
Overall, it was the 28th finals appearance for the Aces, who went one-up over their victims for solo second all-time.
“There’s going to be adversity…but I’m happy we ended it now,” Aces coach Alex Compton said. “Purefoods scares me.”
Eager to drag the series to at least another game, the Hotshots mixed it up and fielded a tall lineup that saw 6-foot-2 James Yap as the shortest player, manning the point, along with Marqus Blakely, Marc Pingris, Joe Devance, and Yousef Taha.
The ploy seemed to work early as the Hotshots were in the driver’s seat most of the first half and led by as many as 10 points, 44-34 after a Devance triple with a little over two minutes left before halftime.
But the Aces, like in Game One, where they rallied from an 18-point deficit, clawed backed behind their trademark stingy defense that limited the Hotshots to just 31 points in the second half.
It was Travis and Manuel who took the offensive cudgels in the fourth quarter. The relentless Alaska import scored 10 of his 19, while the hardworking local big man chipped eight of his 14 in the final frame as the Aces had an answer for every Star basket.
Blakely scored just 15 points as the Star import was scoreless in the middle quarters, although he scattered seven boards, six assists, four steals, and four blocks in 44 minutes.
Yap had the touches he was searching for as he wound up with 17 attempts, but only made six, still good for game-high honors with 20 points.
But the Hotshots superstar missed an ill-advised trey that he seemed to take too early off a timeout with 52 seconds left, his team down by just two.
Manuel put the exclamation point with a right-corner jumper off Travis that made it 81-77, time down to 30.1 seconds.
ALASKA 82 – Travis 19, Manuel 14, Baguio 11, Dela Rosa 11, Casio 9, Banchero 5, Abueva 5, Thoss 4, Hontiveros 4, Baclao 0, Jazul 0
STAR 77 – Yap 20, Blakely 15, Mallari 9, Pingris 8, Devance 8, Taha 6, Barroca 5, Reavis 4, Simon 2, Melton 0, Pennisi 0
Quarterscores: 16-23, 37-46, 60-65, 82-77