ALASKA showed steady nerves down the stretch to hack out a close 85-81 decision over Meralco to grab a share of the lead in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup on Wednesday night at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Leading by double digits several times during the third period, the Aces found themselves under siege when Bolts came within 81-83 as Ronjay Buenafe knocked down his second straight three-pointer in a one-minute span.
But Tony dela Cruz put the game away with two pressure-packed free throws, while Meralco rookie Vic Manuel lost possession on a drive on the other end to seal the Bolts’ fate.
Import Robert Dozier came up with a splendid performance for the Aces, finishing with 27 points, 17 rebounds and six shot blocks to outplay Bolts reinforcement Eric Dawson, who struggled against Alaska center Sonny Thoss’ defense.
“We had to put focus on Dawson and credit Sonny Thoss. What a performance from him defensively. He doesn’t get the credit because he’s doing things defensively. But he’s really a hard worker,” Alaska coach Luigi Trillo said.
Interestingly, Trillo said he had no regrets getting Dozier in the end after Dawson, Alaska’s original choice for the Commissioner’s Cup, declined to sign up with them just before the start of the second conference.
“Dozier is versatile. I like his demeanor and he really does a better job of composing himself. Di siya napipikon,” said Trillo. “Dawson would have been perfect for the triangle and would have easily dominated the league. But I told Dozier we’re not gonna replace him.”
Alaska’s super rookie Calvin Abueva churned out 20 points and eight rebounds to support Dozier, while Cyrus Baguio added 16.
Manuel, meantime, led the Bolts with 18 points and eight rebounds, while Dawson was held to just 15 points as he failed to follow up on his 37-point debut performance in Meralco’s 99-92 win against Talk ‘N Text.
Alaska tied idle Barako Bull at 2-0, while Meralco drops to 1-1. The Aces lead their season-series against the Bolts, 3-1.
Alaska 85 - Dozier 27, Abueva 20, Baguio 16, Casio 8, Espinas 6, Thoss 6, Dela Cruz 2, Ramos 0, Jazul 0, Eman 0, Hontiveros 0, Belasco 0
Meralco 81 - Manuel 18, Dawson 15, Buenafe 14, Cardona 11, Ross 6, Hugnatan 5, Hodge 4, Artadi 4, Guevara 2, Borboran 2, Reyes 0, Timberlake 0
Quarterscores: 26-21, 47-39, 63-62, 85-81