TALK ‘N Text withstood a late Alaska fightback to turn back the Aces, 99-95, on Sunday at the Mall of Asia Arena to move a win away from clinching a berth in the PBA Philippine Cup Finals.
The defending champions prevailed to end the year on a bright note, but not after surviving the Aces’ charge down the stretch behind Gabby Espinas, Calvin Abueva, and JV Casio.
They now lead the series 3-2 and a chance to clinch a third straight trip to the All-Filipino Finals with another win in Game 4 on January 4 at the Astrodome.
Ryan Reyes led seven players in double-figures for Talk `N Text with 15 points, including three rebounds, and two assists.
Abueva, the rookie from Pampanga, led Alaska with a double-double of 19 points and 11 rebounds, on top of three assists, one steal, and one block.
But the frontrunner for the Best Player of the Conference plum committed a crucial turnover in the waning seconds that hastened the Aces’ downfall.
Espinas cut the Texters’ lead to just 98-95 after he scored on a putback off a Hontiveros missed triple in the final 37.5 seconds.
That proved to be the last stand of the Aces however, as Abueva turned the ball over in their next offensive possession, the ball bouncing off his knee as he tried to wiggle free off Jared Dilinger.
"It was a very competitive game,” Talk `N Text coach Norman Black said. “I thought my guys bounced back from a poor performance in Game Four.”
For a while, though, the Tropang Texters appeared to be still reeling from their 104-99 Game Four loss as they trailed in the first two minutes of the game, 10-2.
But after rallying to knot the count at the end of the first quarter, the reigning champions started to pull away and build a comfortable margin.
“I think this is the first time both teams really concentrated on basketball and didn’t worry on the officiating as much,” said Black, who engaged Alaska counterpart Luigi Trillo in a virtual word war after short of accusing the officiating of favoring one team.
“But more importantly, we played better defense than we played last game. I think that’s the reason why we won the game,” added the Grand Slam winning mentor.
Talk `N Text (99) -- Reyes 15, De Ocampo 13, Fonacier 12, Dillinger 11, Alapag 11, Williams 10, Carey 10, Castro 9, Peek 8, Raymundo 0, Aban 0.
Alaska (95) -- Abueva 19, Baguio 14, Espinas 13, Baracael 12, Jazul 11, Thoss 10, Casio 8, Hontiveros 6, Belasco 2, Reyes 0, Dela Cruz 0.
Quarterscores: 20-20; 55-43; 79-71; 99-95.