MERALCO figured out one of its previously unsolvable puzzles as it held off Alaska, 107-101, to clinch a twice-to-beat edge in the quarterfinals of the PBA Commissioner’s Cup on Friday night at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
The Bolts withstood a familiar comeback by the Aces as they proved steadier at crunch time to hack out their third straight victory and eighth overall in 10 outings that assured them of one of top two spots heading into the next round.
Jimmy Alapag turned back the clock and delivered the key baskets down the stretch to lead to Bolts, who won over the Aces for the first time in two years.
“It’s really nice to beat the Aces for the first time since I became coach,” Bolts coach Norman Black said. “Our offense is really starting to pick up, but it was really our defense that saved the day for us.”
Calvin Abueva led the Aces’ fightback that fell short as they dropped to third in a tie with Rain or Shine and Ginebra with a 6-4 win-loss card.
No thanks to the 38-year-old Alapag, who fired seven of his 16 points in the fourth quarter that lifted his squad.
Arinze Onuaku anchored the Bolts anew with 28 points and 19 boards in 41 minutes as he got the better of Aces counterpart Shane Edwards who contributed just 12 points on 2-of-8 shooting and seven rebounds in 38 minutes.
Abeuva carried the Aces on his back, scattering 10 of his 27 points as his team nudged to within four points.
MERALCO 107 – Onuaku 28, Alapag 16, Dillinger 16, Newsome 11, Buenafe Ry 7, Hodge 7, Faundo 6, Amer 5, Hugnatan 4, Buenafe Ro 3, Bono 2, Caram 2, Ferriols 0
ALASKA 101 – Abueva 27, Manuel 13, Baguio 12, Banchero 12, Edwards 12, Jazul 12, Baclao 3, Excimiiano 3, Dela Rosa 2, Hontiveros 2, Thoss 2, Menk 1, Dela Cruz 0
Quarterscores: 38-28, 65-54, 86-83, 107-101