ALASKA Milk got off to a strong start and never looked back as it rolled to an easy 92-81 victory over the skidding Air21 side on Friday night in the PBA Philippine Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Five Alaska scored in double figures led by guard JV Casio, who despite, being under the weather the past days, finished with a team-high 19 points spiked by three three-point shots.
Rookie Calvin Abueva, on the other hand, punched in his second straight double-double performance as a pro, with 16 points and 12 rebounds in the Aces' third straight win after two losses.
“Masyadong mahirap itong ginawa ko. Pinagtiyagaan ko lang kumuha ng rebounds sa laro. Mataas na antas kasi ang PBA, pero pinagtiyagaan ko na ma-improve ang laro ko,” said the 6-1 1/2 forward-guard, who was matched up against Air21’s 6-5 power forward KG Canaleta for much of the game.
Alaska coach Luigi Trillo said he was pleased with how the Aces got off to a strong start, though their defense somehow relaxed a bit, allowing Air21 to claw back from 22-point deficit and inch to within 70-79 on a jump shot by Noy Baclao, with 7:06 left in the game.
The Aces, however, finished off the Express when Casio, Abueva and Sonny Thoss stepped on the gas to hand Air21 its fourth straight loss this season. The Express are now at the bottom of the standings with a 1-5 record.
“We had some anxious moments in the third quarter. We gave them (Express) 27 points in the third. We let them get back in. But these are baby steps, and it’s nice to get our third win. We’ve been working hard on defense. This time, we started well defensively,” said Trillo.
Trillo gave credit to his wards, who held Air21 to just 30 percent field goal shooting during the first half as Alaska took a 50-33 lead at the half.
Air21 was careless for most part of the game, turning the ball over 24 times, resulting to 29 Alaska turnover points. The Aces also held a 12-3 fastbreak edge.
The Aces, though, had a scary moment when high-scoring guard Cyrus Baguio left the game early in the fourth period after hurting his knee in a collision with Casio underneath the Air21 goal during a loose ball situation.
“I thought it was the ankle (of Cyrus), pero I heard it was knee. It looks like he can’t walk. Cyrus has been awesome for us the past three games. Aside from up-tempo, siya rin ang kumakalma sa amin,” added Trillo.
Former Alaska guard Bonbon Custodio returned from a three-game absence to lead the Express with 20 points, six rebounds and two assists, while Canaleta added 16.
Alaska 91 - Casio 19, Abueva 16, Baguio 15, Hontiveros 15, Thoss 11, Espinas 8, Reyes 4, Jazul 2, Baracael 2, Laure 0, Dela Cruz 0
Air21 81 - Custodio 20, Canaleta 16, Isip 12, Baclao 10, Wilson 7, Taha 6, Reyes 4, Omolon 4, Arnoleda 2, Atkins 0, Sena 0, Escobal 0, Ritualo 0
Quarterscores: 26-17, 50-33, 74-60, 92-81