ALASKA withstood a late fightback by Barako Bull to hack out a 90-87 victory that underlined its readiness for the PBA Governors Cup playoffs on Sunday at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
The Aces saw their double-digit lead almost disintegrate in less than two minutes, before holding on to finish the elimination round on a three-game winning run for a 5-4 win-loss card, while dealing the Energy their sixth loss in nine games.
The victory catapulted the Aces two places up to fifth and could even climb to fourth and clinch a twice-to-beat edge that comes with it should Rain or Shine, which dealt them a 51-point beating a few games ago, defeats fellow second-running San Mig Coffee on the final date of the eliminations on Monday.
The Aces will drop to as low seventh spot if the Elasto Painters lose to the Mixers, though, according to PBA chief statistician Fidel Mangonon.
JVee Casio spearheaded the Aces with 20 points, including two consecutive triples that gave his squad an 88-75 lead with over a minute left, before the Energy cut the deficit to three.
“That was scary,” Aces coach Alex Compton said. “Credit to Barako. They did not give up ‘til the end.”
But the American mentor was pleased with the way the Aces had limited the Energy to under 80 points until they made a 12-2 salvo to close the gap.
“The way our guys dug deep and brought out that energy in the second half with their defense makes me proud of them,” Compton said as the Energy’s 47.9-percent shooting belied the Aces’ defense.
The Aces specifically focused their attention on Energy import Allen Durham, who still had 17 points and 22 rebounds, but numbers that were a far cry from his last two games when he flirted with a 30-30 and registered a triple-double.
ALASKA (90) -- Casio 20, Walker 17, Thoss 13, Abueva 10, Espinas 9, Manuel 7, Jazul 5, Baguio 4, Hontiveros 3, Belasco 2, Dela Cruz 0.
BARAKO (87) -- Durham 17, Miller 15, Pennisi 14, Fortuna 13, Jensen 8, Miranda 8, Najorda 4, Marcelo 4, Custodio 4, Thiele 0, Lastimosa 0, Wilson 0, Isip 0.
Quarterscores: 18-22; 38-49; 64-64; 90-87