CHRIS Banchero saved the day with a game-tying jumper with a second left in regulation as Alaska completed a comeback against Meralco, 108-103, on Friday night to reach the PBA Commissioner’s Cup playoffs.
Banchero scored the Aces’ final five points in regulation, helping the team overcome a four-point deficit in the final 20 seconds of a fiercely fought game at the Mall of Asia Arena to clinch the eighth and last spot in the quarterfinals.
Vic Manuel and Jeron Teng hit the crucial shots in overtime as Alaska arranged a Final 8 match-up against top-seed and twice-to-beat TNT KaTropa on Sunday at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
A relieved Alex Compton emerged from the sudden-death game feeling like he had 'won a championship game.'
“Honestly, after that game, the heart the guys showed, Meralco played great, and the plays that they made, it does feel like a championship win," said the Alaska coach.
"It’s not. I understand that, but just the emotion, struggle through five games, and the things we are trying to work through, just a nice feeling,” Compton added.
It was a huge victory for the Aces, who lost their final five games of the eliminations and looked down and out after trailing, 95-91, with 20.7 seconds left in the fourth quarter.
Manuel finished with 23 points and Diamon Simpson added 20 points and 23 rebounds for the Aces, but it was Banchero and Teng who took over late.
Banchero hit the three-pointer that cut the deficit to one point, 95-94, with 10.4 seconds left in the fourth. Chris Newsome split his free throws with 9.5 seconds left but Banchero answered with a tough turnaround jumper off Delroy James.
James scored 34 points for the Bolts, including a triple that put his team ahead, 93-89, with 48.1 seconds left in regulation.
After Cliff Hodge hit a jumper in overtime, Manuel racked up four straight points inside to give Alaska a 104-102 lead with 1:16 left in overtime. A split from the line by James was followed by a big Teng putpack for a 106-103 lead.
Alaska 108 – Manuel 23, Simpson 20, Banchero 15, Casio 14, Enciso 13, Teng 12, Thoss 5, Baclao 2, Pascual 2, Racal 2.
Meralco 103 – James 34, Newsome 20, Almazan 14, Amer 8, Quinto 7, Pinto 6, Faundo 4, Hodge 4, Jackson 3, De Ocampo 3, Salva 0.
Quarters: 26-28; 55-43; 68-66; 96-96; 108-103.