Alaska escapes past NLEX for first win in Commissioner's Cup
NLEX import Al Thornton whacks Alaska counterpart DJ Covington by the arm in their PBA Commissioner's Cup game Saturday. Jaime Campos

A SHORTHANDED Alaska registered its first victory in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup the hard way, surviving a tough NLEX side for a 96-95 victory in a rare playdate at the Arena in San Juan.

The Aces squandered a double-digit lead in the third quarter then wiggled out of a tight endgame battle with the Road Warriors to hack out the hard-earned victory.

It was Alaska's first win in two games and first since Game Six of the Philippine Cup Finals against San Miguel Beer as the Aces kept their victims on Saturday winless after two starts.

Import DJ Covington tallied 24 points and seven boards to lead Alaska, while NLEX counterpart Al Thornton exploded for 39 markers and 13 rebounds, but failed to at least make an attempt for the win in the face of the Alaska’s suffocating defense in the Warriors’ final play.

“We had to win it with a stop,” Aces coach Alex Compton said. “I believe that’s more character for us.”

Vic Manuel, Cyrus Baguio, and RJ Jazul also scored in double figures for Alaska, which bucked the absence of injured fellow stalwarts Sonny Thoss (foot) and JVee Casio (hand).

In a battle between two winless teams, the Aces showed more desire to snap the skid, racing to an early lead that grew to as many as 13 points, 69-56, after a Jazul three-pointer with over four minutes to go in the third canto.

But the Road Warriors fought back, engaging the Aces in a see-saw battle that saw eight deadlocks and three lead changes.

Asi Taulava nudged NLEX to within a whisker after splitting his charities that made it the final score, time down to 46 seconds, setting the stage for a one last play, which Thornoton failed to take advantage of.

 

The scores: 

ALASKA 96 – Covington 24, Manuel 16, Baguio 14, Jazul 12, Banchero 7, Abueva 6, Menk 6, Dela Cruz 5, Exciminiano 2, Hontiveros 2, Espinas 2, Eman 0, Dela Rosa 0, Vanlandingham 0

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NLEX 95 – Thornton 39, Canaleta 16, Ramos 9, Villanueva J. 8, Lingganay 6, Borboran 6, Taulava 5, Cardona 4, Hermida 2, Camson 0, Arboleda W. 0, Apinan 0, Arboleda H. 0, Baloria 0, Soyud 0

Quarterscores: 22-16, 46-40, 75-73, 96-95

Follow the writer on Twitter: @KarloSacamos