ALASKA proved its version of a suffocating defense was better as it shut down Meralco, 92-72, to regain the lead in their PBA Commissioner’s Cup semifinal series on Friday night at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
The Aces shrugged off a slow start as they broke away in the second half behind their trademark pressure defense that translated into their transition game and outside shooting to move on the verge of a fourth finals appearance in five conferences.
The Aces can close out the series in Game Four on Monday also at the Big Dome.
Rob Dozier and Calvin Abeuva delivered as usual, while Chris Banchero was on target from long range as the trio spearheaded the Aces’ attack against a Bolts side that tried to give its defense-oriented opponents a dose of their own medicine.
“We defended for thirty-nine minutes in Game Two, but we defended for forty-eight minutes in Game Three,” Aces coach Alex Compton said.
The Aces’ defense was most evident on Bolts import Arinze Onuaku, who was held to just 16 points on nine attempts in 36 minutes.
His Aces counterpart was more effective as Dozier registered a game-high 25 points, including 12 in the third quarter where they limited the Bolts to just 16 points, while scoring 28 of their own to turn a halftime deadlock into a 12-point lead, which they never relinquished in the payoff period.
The Aces import hauled down 14 boards, two blocks, and one assist, while Abueva also had a double-double with 23 points and 12 points in 31 minutes.
Banchero added 16 markers as he buried all his three three-point attempts for the Aces, who led by as many 22 points.
ALASKA 92 – Dozier 25, Abueva 23, Banchero 16, Menk 6, Baclao 4, Baguio 4, Exciminiano 4, Jazul 4, Hontiveros 2, Thoss 2, Dela Rosa 1, Racal 1, Dela Cruz 0, Eman 0
MERALCO 72 – Onuaku 16, Alapag 12, Hodge 12, Hugnatan 12, Dillinger 9, Buenafe Ry 5, Caram 4, Faundo 2, Amer 0, Bono 0, Ferriols 0, Guevarra 0, Newsome 0
Quarterscores: 15-20, 38-38, 66-54, 92-72