RJ Jazul turned from goat to hero while Calvin Abueva was impressive all game as Alaska Milk pulled off a dramatic 89-82 overtime victory over San Mig Coffee in Game Three of their Commissioner's Cup playoff to move within a win of its first Finals appearance in three years.
Super rookie Abueva poured in 17 of his game-high 24 points in the second half and overtime while Jazul, who was in the game only because Jvee Casio fouled out, atoned for missing a potential game-winner at the end of regulation by scoring the first six points of overtime.
Abueva capped his game-long brilliance with a breakaway dunk off Cyrus Baguio’s crucial block on San Mig forward James Yap’s three-point attempt, sealing Alaska's second straight win after losing nine in a row to the Mixers and former coach Tim Cone.
“Calvin was great. We chewed them (Mixers) up in the half,” said Alaska coach Luigi Trillo, whose team could nail a first Finals appearance in the post-Cone era with another win on Saturday.
The Uytengsu organization's last Finals appearance came in the 2009-10 Fiesta Conference where it beat San Miguel Beer for the last of its 13 titles under Cone.
Trillo admitted the Aces lacked the energy during the first 24 minutes of play, which saw the Aces trail, 32-45 at the half. But with Abueva diving for looseballs, engineering fastbreaks and scoring on putbacks, the Aces slowly climbed out of a 16-point, third-quarter hole.
“This thing is gonna be about defense and I’m glad the guys responded. It’s one of the games where no one wants to give in,” added Trillo.
The youthful Alaska mentor commended Jazul for stepping up big in overtime after Casio fouled out.
“RJ's been great. And I think collectively, there's really no stars (in the team). But RJ stepped up. RJ was really huge,” he said.
ALASKA 89 - Abueva 24, Baguio 13, Casio 12, Dozier 11, Thoss 11, Jazul 6, Belasco 5, Hontiveros 3, Espinas 2, Dela Cruz 2.
SAN MIG COFFEE 82 - Bowles 19, Barroca 15, Pingris 15, Mallari 7, Devance 7, Yap 7, Simon 6, Najorda 2, Reavis 2, De Ocampo 2.
Quarterscores: 13-19, 32-45, 54-59, 80-80, 89-82