THE `Beast' is back, and so are the Alaska Aces.
Calvin Abueva finished with a double-double in his first game back from injury, powering the Aces past the Meralco Bolts, 88-85, as Alaska finally arrested a four-game losing streak in the PBA Philippine Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum on Wednesday night.
Abueva, the No. 2 overall pick in the last rookie Draft, hardly showed the effects of a nasal viral infection that sidelined him for more than a week, as he came through with 20 points and 18 rebounds in the hard-earned win that wasn't in the bag until the final buzzer.
The Aces went through some anxious moments in the endgame after Abueva was called for a foul as fellow rookie Cliff Hodge was going for a game-tying three-point shot in the Bolts’ final play.
But a review of the game’s final sequence showed that there was no more time left when the two rookies got into contact with each other infront of the Bolts' bench.
“Calvin, he’s all over the place...we missed him,” said coach Luigi Trillo of his prized rookie, who had to be hospitalized for three days when he aggravated his nasal injury after he was hit square in the face by Air21 big man Rob Reyes.
Abueva, who also missed the Aces’ first three games this conference as he finished his commitment with college team San Sebastian, shot 7-of-14 from two-point range, went 6-of-8 from the foul line, had three assists, a pair of steals, and had one block in 36 minutes of play – the most among the Aces.
“He’s a winner. Hindi ko nga siya malabas. I gave him 36 minutes, and I have to give him a little break. You can see what he brings to the table. He’s not the biggest guy, but when you see him on the court, he has the biggest heart. Ang laki ng puso,” said Trillo.
But the rest of Aces also did their share in helping the team arrest a four-game losing skid and even its record at 6-6 in a tie with its victim.
Cyrus Baguio backed up Abueva with 19 points, while Sonny Thoss and Mac Baracael had 12 each. Baracael’s three-pointer with 1:32 left shattered the game’s final deadlock and put the Aces on top for good, 85-82.
MacMac Cardona paced Meralco with 14 points along with Chris Ross as he became the 65th member of the league’s 5,000-point club.
But the shooting guard out of De La Salle missed on a one-hander with 12.7 seconds to go that could have tied the game anew as the ball bounced off the rim before it trickled out.
Abueva collared the rebound, paving the way for a JV Casio split from the foul line with nine seconds left and an 88-85 lead for the Aces.
The game was a hardly-fought one with a total of 13 deadlocks and 12 lead changes.
Alaska (88) – Abueva 20, Baguio 19, Thoss 11, Baracael 12, Casio 9, Espinas 7, Jazul 6, Dela Cruz 2, Eman 1, Reyes 0, Hontiveros 0.
Meralco (85) – Cardona 14, Ross 14, Hodge 13, Hugnatan 11, Mercado 10, Borboran 9, Nabong 6, Reyes 5, Buenafe 3, Salvacion 0.
Quarterscores: 24-21; 43-34; 64-66; 88-85.