ALASKA Milk stuck to its strengths in the second half to turn back Talk ‘N Text, 100-88, in a highly physical encounter that turned their PBA Philippine Cup semifinals series into a best-of-five affair on Friday night at the Mall of Asia Arena.
The Aces fell behind early but refused to be trapped into playing the up-and-down game that the Texters favor, buckling down to work on defense in the second half to pull away and score their first win in the best-of-seven series.
“Talk 'N Text came out in the first half and they were able to impose their will on us. But in the second half, it was more our tempo again, more grind it out, more defense,” Aces coach Luigi Trillo said.
JVee Casio, Calvin Abueva, Cyrus Baguio, and Sonny Thoss stood out for the Aces, who could have been up 2-0 by now had
Ryan Reyes’ late triple not bailed out the Texters in a 66-65 Game One win.
Casio led the way with 22 points on top of three boards and two assists for the Aces, who ended a seven-game win streak for the Texters and dealt the top-seeded MVP franchise just its third loss of the season.
Super-rookie Abueva, battling numerous TNT defenders, still came away with a double-double of 20 points and 14 boards on top of two assists and one block in a performance that boosted his chance of winning the Best of the Player Conference plum right in his first tournament.
Baguio, for his part, fired 18 points, including 10 in the payoff period when the Aces put the outcome beyond doubt.
Trillo is satisfied with how the Aces have been able to stay toe to toe with the threepeat-seeking Texters.
“I have the highest respect for their organization. They’ve been successful. They have a great coach. I just feel we’ve been playing them well because we’re respecting them and playing them to our identity,” said Trillo, whose wards outrebounded the Texters, 45-34, and had more assists, 19-14.
The Texters’ fast-paced game was in full effect in the first half where they established a 10-point lead, before Casio and Thoss
combined in the third quarter and changed the game's complexion.
“We established Sonny in the post and we went to the different mismatches,” Trillo said. “And I thought we did a better job on Jason (Castro) and Jimmy (Alapag).”
Castro, among the Texters’ leading scorers, was held to 12 points, while Alapag wound up with four markers while going 0-of-5 from three-point distance in 31 minutes of action.
Game Three is set Wednesday, giving both teams a day’s rest.
“The nice thing I feel right now is that the next game is on Wednesday. We have tired legs as well as they so it will be an
opportunity for us to refresh a bit and go back to the drawing board,” Trillo said.
ALASKA 100 – Casio 22, Abueva 20, Baguio 18, Thoss 13, Espinas 9, Jazul 7, Hontiveros 5, Baracael 2, Laure 2, Belasco 2, Reyes 0, Dela Cruz 0
TNT 88 – Dillinger 26, Williams 13, Castro 12, Fonacier 10, De Ocampo 10, Peek 6, Carey 4, Alapag 4, Aban 3, Reyes 0, Alvarez 0
Quarterscores: 21-27, 46-48, 74-68, 100-88