KIA Motors claimed another major scalp in Alaska, 103-89 to close in on an improbable place in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup playoffs on Tuesday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Hulking import Peter John Ramos was once again an unstoppable force for KIA, finishing with 36 points and 33 boards - the most number of rebounds in a game over the last 10 years, according to PBA chief statistician Fidel Mangonon.
But it was the triumvirate of KIA locals JR Cawaling, Karl Dehesa and playmaker LA Revilla who played big roles in a second-half run that set the stage for the Carnival's fourth win in nine games.
The giant-killing rookie team has now beaten four of the five teams to win all league championships since 2008, adding Alaska to a growing list that includes Talk 'N Text, San Miguel and Purefoods.
The lone exception is Rain or Shine.
Cawaling, a free-agent pickup during the conference break, buried four three-pointers while Dehesa added two treys that allowed KIA to turn a shaky four-point halftime lead to an 80-67 spread early in the last quarter.
Alaska managed to close in at 77-81 behind import Damion James, but Revilla triggered a backbreaking 17-4 exchange with his hustle plays to keep the Aces at bay.
“I challenged the players to play hard this time kasi in our last game (against Blackwater), we were so flat, dahil medyo may tendency kami to relax,” said KIA’s lead assistant coach Chito Victolero, who called the shots in the absence of playing coach Manny Pacquiao.
Pacquiao left on Saturday evening to begin his training for the May 2 megafight against Floyd Mayweather, shortly after coaching KIA in a 115-104 decision to Blackwater.
The Aces are now 0-3 under James, who replaced DJ Covington two weeks ago. The Philippine Cup runner-up remained in 10th place with its 2-5 record, its playoff hopes very much in danger.
Alaska played without veteran gunner Dondon Hontiveros, who is in Cebu to attend to personal matters. The Aces then lost starting playmaker JV Casio after he was hit accidentally in the nose by Revilla in the first quarter.
The 5-10 Casio failed to return because of the swelling in his nose.
Dehesa finished the game with 14 points, Cawaling added 13, while Revilla chipped in 10 points, five rebounds, five assists and two steals for the Carnival.
James led Alaska with 25 points and 16 rebounds, while Sonny Thoss had 16 points in his first game this conference after being sidelined with a partially torn right plantar fascia.
KIA 103 - Ramos 36, Dehesa 14, Cawaling 13, Revilla 10, Cervantes 6, Avenido 6, Buensuceso 5, Thiele 4, Alvarez 3, Poligrates 2, Pascual 2, Yee 2, Webb 0.
ALASKA 89 - James 25, Thoss 16, Baguio 14, Abueva 11, Banchero 7, Manuel 6, Jazul 4, Dela Cruz 4, Eman 2, Dela Rosa 0, Exciminiano 0, Espinas 0, Casio 0, Menk 0.
Quarterscores: 28-27, 53-49, 77-67, 103-89