THE New Year indeed brought new hope for Alaska as it hacked out a 103-98 victory over Meralco to barge into the win column of the PBA Philippine Cup on Wednesday night at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
Flashing a renewed spirit that they sustained throughout the game, the Aces held off a resilient Bolts side to snap a two-game losing streak and put their disappointing 2017 behind.
Kevin Racal knocked down two dagger triples before Calvin Abueva put the finishing touches as the Aces withstood a late stand by the Bolts to hand the opponents their second loss in three games.
“It was hard-fought game against a tough team,” Aces coach Alex Compton said. “I’m proud of our defensive intensity.”
“I really felt like we brought some great defensive energy and teamwork…I don’t think we had that last year,” he added. “We played hard, but it wasn’t as hard as you saw out there. If we work like that, I’ll go to war with them anytime.”
Abueva typified the Aces’ hard work as usual, pouring in 19 points, nine boards, three assists, and three steals in 23 minutes, while his bruise brother, Vic Manuel, added 19 points, four rebounds, and one assist without a turnover in 24 minutes off the bench.
But it was Racal who spelled the biggest difference offensively as the defensive lynchpin drained back-to-back treys in the face of a late Meralco uprising, the second giving the Aces a 93-86 lead with a little over two minutes to go.
Chris Newsome registered 23 points, six rebounds, and four assists in 33 minutes to lead the Bolts, who tried to overhaul a deficit as many as 14 points, before falling short.
ALASKA 103 – Abueva 19, Manuel 19, Banchero 13, Teng 8, Casio 8, Racal 8, J. Pascual 7, Enciso 7, Thoss 5, Potts 4, Exciminiano 3, Cruz 2
MERALCO 98 – Newsome 23, Canaleta 16, Amer 15, Bono 9, Dillinger 8, Hugnatan 8, Baracael 6, Caram 6, Lanete 5, Ballesteros 2, Tolomia 0
Quarterscores: 26-16, 53-39, 78-71, 103-98