A GRITTY Alaska squad recovered from an abysmal start, relying on its tireless defense and crucial three-pointers from JV Casio and Dondon Hontiveros in overtime to beat San Miguel Beer, 88-82, at the start of their PBA Philippine Cup Finals on Wednesday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Held down to a franchise low-tying five points in the first quarter, the Aces patiently chipped away at the Beermen’s once imposing 22-point lead with their pressure defense and a balanced scoring attack.
Calvin Abueva provided the hustle on the way to posting a double-double of 22 points and 10 rebounds while Casio and Hontiveros combined for six three-pointers in the second half to help the Aces complete the massive comeback and grab a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.
“We had a bad start in the first quarter. But credit goes to San Miguel. We came out flat, parang kami yung galing sa layoff eh,” said Alaska coach Alex Compton.
"But with these guys, their hearts and their effort, I said okay it’s 25-5, but there’s 36 minutes left, so we just have to commit to defense," he added.
The win continued a dream run for the Aces, who twice fought back from deficits as big as 19 points to beat Rain or Shine, 4-2, in their fiercely fought semifinal series.
This time, the Aces fought back after falling behind, 5-25, right in the first quarter.
Casio missed a tough running shot that would have won the game outright for Alaska in regulation play, but the veteran Aces playmaker managed to deliver the telling blows in the extension period.
Bench scoring proved huge for the Aces’ gigantic comeback as they outscored the Beermen, 61-20, with ookie guard Chris Banchero scoring a PBA career-high 16 points on 7-of-10 shooting.
Hontiveros chipped in 15, including 12 in the second half against his former team. Casio added 13 points to go along with three rebounds, three steals and two assists.
Chris Lutz led San Miguel with 24 points, while June Mar Fajardo posted another double-doubble with 14 points and 17 rebounds.
The 6-10 Fajardo, however, was held down to just six points from the second quarter onwards and, oddly enough, rarely got the touches in the final minutes of regulation and overtime.
Alaska 88 - Abueva 22, Banchero 16, Hontiveros 15, Casio 13, Manuel 7, Baguio 4, Exciminiano 4, Jazul 4, Dela Cruz 2, Thoss 1, Eman 0, Dela Rosa 0, Espinas 0, Menk 0.
San Miguel 82 - Lutz 24, Fajardo 14, Santos 12, Pascual 10, Cabagnot 6, Omolon 4, Semerad 4, Lassiter 3, Ross 2, Kramer 2, Tubid 1, Maierhofer 0, Fortuna 0, Chua 0.
Quarterscores: 5-27, 31-45, 49-54, 74-74, 88-82