NO comebacks were needed this time, yet Alaska still needed to work hard for this one.
The Aces wiggled out of a tight battle as they squeaked past San Miguel Beer, 83-80, to take a 2-0 lead in the PBA Philippine Cup Finals on Tuesday night at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
The Aces, who had to claw back from a double-digit deficit in Game One, engaged the Beermen in a nip-and-tuck affair then showing steely nerves down the stretch - none steadier than those of Vic Manuel.
Manuel fired 18 points off the bench and typified the team’s composure at crunch time by burying two pressure-packed charities with 1.7 seconds left that gave Alaska the cushion against an SMB side that fought courageously in the absence of star slotman June Mar Fajardo.
The underrated forward also blocked a Yancy de Ocampo follow-up and broke up an inbound in SMB's final play, leaving the Beermen with not enough time to go for a game-tying three-pointer.
“There were some hairy moments in the end,” Aces coach Alex Compton said. “I hope the fans enjoyed that, because I didn’t. I’m glad we pulled it off.”
The best-of-seven series shifts to Game Three on Friday in Lucena.
The Aces were on the driver’s seat for most part, but the Beermen, despite missing Fajardo for the second straight game, stayed within striking distance.
Alex Cabagnot carried most of the offensive load anew with 23 points, including two on a bank shot that gave the Beermen a taste of the lead at 73-71 midway through the fourth quarter.
The Aces regained the cushion, but never went up by more than three points. Ronald Tubid knotted the count with a trey, but Dondon Hontiveros put Alaska on top for good after splitting his charities, before Manuel buried two of his own to seal the deal.
The “Muscleman” also preserved the hard-earned with a deflection on the other end that left the Beermen with even less time to take an potential overtime-sending shot.
Hontiveros finished with 12 points, while six other Aces scored in six points each.
Alaska 83 - Manuel 18, Hontiveros 12, Baguio 10, Abueva 9, Jazul 7, Baclao 6, Banchero 6, Menk 6, Casio 5, Thoss 4, Dela Cruz 0, Exciminiano 0.
San Miguel 80 - Cabagnot 23, De Ocampo 13, Lassiter 11, Santos 10, Lutz 6, Ross 6, Tubid 5, Espinas 4, Arana 2, Reyes 0.
Quarterscores: 23-18, 39-36, 62-60, 83-80