ALASKA Milk battled back from a huge 21-point deficit to stun Petron Blaze, 79-71, on Wednesday night in one of the finest comebacks seen so far in the 2012 PBA Philippine Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Cyrus Baguio, Calvin Abueva, and JVee Casio led a fourth-quarter run that left Petron in utter shock as the Aces swept their two-game head-to-head matchup with the Boosters in the regular season.
It was the biggest come-from-behind win since Rain or Shine rallied from a 26-point deficit to shock Meralco, 102-98, in overtime last November 21.
The Aces improved to 8-6 overall and moved up to fourth place, while the Boosters dropped to 6-8 and, worse, now head to the playoffs with their confidence deflated after a game they should have handily won.
While it was Baguio who spearheaded the rally by scoring half of his 20 points in the payoff period, Abueva and Casio were also instrumental as well as they delivered despite being under the weather.
Abueva, who was still nursing a second-degree ankle sprain from their last game, and Casio, who’s coming off a fever, scored 12 points apiece and made their biggest contributions during Alaska's endgame surge.
“This was our third game in seven days, things weren’t working on our triangle, and we had injuries all around tonight,” Aces coach Luigi Trillo said, whose wards were coming off a 101-95 victory over Globalport last week in Dipolog.
“But they just willed the game. It’s so nice to see them not giving up, just super. I felt we really battled in the fourth.”
After Alex Cabagnot converted four straight freethrows that left the Aces in a 63-42 hole with a little over two minutes left in the third quarter, the Boosters scored only eight points the rest of the way.
They scored an all-time franchise-low six points in the fourth quarter.
“Kailangan namin matutunan pano maglaro ng forty-eight minutes,” Boosters rookie coach Olsena Racela said.
The Aces, on the other hand, suddenly hit their stride after struggling through three quarters. They exploded for 33 points in the final period, with Casio igniting the big finishing kick with a pair of three-pointers.
Back-to-back jumpers by Abueva and Sonny Thoss and a six-point cluster by Baguio which he highlighted with an open three-pointer got the Aces over the hump, 79-71, with 22 seconds remaning.
Marcio Lassiter led the Boosters in scoring with 14 points, but was held scoreless in the fourth quarter.
ALASKA 79 - Baguio 20, Abueva 12, Casio 12, Hontiveros 10, Thoss 8, Espinas 7, Reyes 3, Baracael 3, Eman 2, Dela Cruz 2, Jazul 0, Laure 0, Belasco 0.
PETRON 71 - Lassiter 14, Santos 13, Cabagnot 11, Fajardo 10, Yeo 9, Miranda 8, Lutz 4, Ildefonso 2, Washington 0, Pena 0.
Quarterscores: 19-25; 29-41; 46-65; 79-71