ALASKA needed a strong finishing kick to beat Barako Bull, 89-80, on Sunday and arrange a sudden-death match against Meralco for the final berth in the PLDT myDSL-PBA Philippine Cup quarterfinals.
Gabby Espinas, JV Casio and RJ Jazul joined hands in the Aces’ 25-9 start in the final period, which allowed them to break open a game that until then had been too close to call, 87-72, with three minutes left to play.
By snapping a three-game losing streak, the Uytengsu franchise forged a four-way tie with Barako Bull, Globalport and Meralco for the sixth to ninth positions in the standings on 5-9 win-loss cards.
But with the Energy and the Batang Pier having superior quotients, the Aces and the Bolts were relegated to a play off for the No. 8 spot set on Monday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
“We just lived to fight another day,” said Alaska coach Luigi Trillo. “It’s been painful this conference because out of the nine games, six could have gone either way."
Despite the loss, Barako Bull still clinched the No. 6 seeding, thus arranging a best-of-three quarterfinal series with third seed Petron Blaze set to start this week.
On the other hand, Globalport will get the No. 7 seed and face second-ranked Rain or Shine, which will enjoy a twice-to-beat incentive in the playoff.
Casio carried the fight for Aces with 24 points in a brilliant all-around performance he spiked with four three-pointers to go along with five rebounds and seven assists.
Bull-strong forward Espinas led a strong performance by the Aces' bench as he chipped in 21, 17 coming in the final half, on top of nine rebounds, two assists, one steal and one blocks.
The 'Beast' Calvin Abueva returned from a one-game absence to finish with nine points and seven rebounds before fouling out with more than 10 minutes to go in the game.
Alaska and Meralco split their conference head-to-head matches. The Aces beat the Bolts, 91-82 during their first meeting, before Meralco bounced back with a low-scoring 74-65 win last week.
The two teams clash in the lone 8 p.m. match on Monday.
Alaska 89 - Casio 24, Espinas 21, Jazul 11, Abueva 9, Baguio 8, Thoss 6, Eman 6, Dela Cruz 4, Hontiveros 0, Avenido 0, Ramos 0, Buenafe 0.
Barako 80 - Buenafe 14, Lastimosa 11, Pena 8, Macapagal 7, Miller 7, Jensen 6, Wilson 6, Isip 6, Pennisi 6, Intal 5, Maierhofer 2, Miranda 2, Marcelo 0, Labagala 0.
Quarterscores: 22-17, 41-38, 62-63, 89-80