ALASKA spoiled San Miguel Beer’s party plans behind its trademark defense to pull off an 87-76 victory on Sunday before a sellout crowd at the Smart Araneta Coliseum, sending the PBA Philippine Cup Finals to a winner-take-all Game Seven.
After another slow start that saw them trail, 4-18, the Aces successfully turned the tables on the Beermen from the second quarter onwards behind the energy and hustle provided by their bench players.
All three Alaska victories in the series have now come from big fightbacks from double-digit deficits.
Dondon Hontiveros, who won two PBA titles while playing for San Miguel several years ago, proved to be the biggest thorn in the side of his former team.
The Cebuano hotshot came off the bench to score 18 points, including 14 in the first half, spiked by three three-pointers as well as four rebounds.
Vic Manuel, another unheralded player for Alaska coach Alex Compton, added 12 points, five rebounds and three assists, while bringing in a solid interior defense after Calvin Abueva ran into early foul trouble in the first quarter.
Game Seven is set on Wednesday with Alaska looking to complete its comeback from a 2-3 deficit with a victory and clinch the franchise's 15th PBA championship overall.
“We’re down 18-4, that’s clearly never planned. But our guys brought the same level of intensity. I’m really grateful to our guys for playing as hard as they do,” said Compton.
Although Alaska played before more than 14,000 fans, some of them expecting the balloons to fall for San Miguel, Compton said his simple message to his players was to just keep playing.
“For me, it’s just believing in the character of these guys. They just never stopped, and I’m proud of that,” he added.
Compton said a huge factor that contributed to Alaska’s massive turnaround was the Aces’ solid bench contribution, which saw their relievers take a huge 53-14 advantage over their SMB counterparts.
Alaska also improved to 12-0 overall this conference when limiting its opponents to 80 points or below, including 3-0 in the Finals.
The Aces recovered from a 22-point and 21-points deficits, respectively, in Games One and Three.
Meantime, starting playmaker JV Casio, who has gone 0-of-12 from the field dating back to Game Four, came alive in the most crucial match of his young PBA career after banging in all nine of his points in the second half.
Casio admitted he had been under the weather the past few days, which contributed to his scoreless performances in Games Four and Five, the first time in his three-career to score without a point in a match.
Arwind Santos topscored with 22 points while Marcio Lassiter added 19 for the Beermen, who will try win Game Seven on Wednesday in a bid to end their 14-year all-Filipino conference title drought.