Alaska snaps San Miguel’s 7-game streak, closes in on outright semis berth
Despite a monster game from June Mar Fajardo, San Miguel Beer went short in its bid to secure an automatic Final Four entry in the Smart Bro PBA Philippine Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum Wednesday night.
Alaska Milk banked on the gutsy, balanced effort of its core players to negate Fajardo’s 43 points and 20 rebounds in a key 103-97 victory over San Miguel.
Sonny Thoss, Calvin Abueva, Chris Banchero, Cyrus Baguio and Jvee Casio joined forces to lead the Aces to the victory that kept the team in contention for the Top Two.
The Beermen wound up with a 9-2 win-loss card. Both the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters and the Aces, however, have a chance to catch up in playing their last games in the elims versus the NLEX Road Warriors and the Barako Bull Energy, respectively, on Saturday.
One scenario, is San Miguel still taking the top spot with ROS and Alaska left to dispute the second Final Four berth on a playoff.
Another scenario is SMB and either ROS or Alaska automatically taking the two outright semis spots.
Whatever it will be, the Aces kept their chance alive with the huge win over the Beermen.
“We knew it’s going to be tough. There’s a zero feeling of comfort even when you’re up by 10. You’ve got comfort only when it’s over,” said Alaska coach Alex Compton.
The Aces squandered a 10-point lead at the start of the fourth quarter but recovered at the finish behind clutch plays by Manuel, Abueva, Casio and Baguio.
Falling behind at 93-94, the Aces regained the upper hand as Manuel slammed home an assist by Casio with time down to 1:11.
The Aces then pounced on successive misses by Arwind Santos to win by six in the end.
Going down the drain was Fajardo’s effort – the first 40-point, 20-rebound game by any PBA player since Asi Taulava collected 49 points and 21 boards in a game with TNT in 2003.
Banchero came out to play nine solid minutes in the second period, piling up 10 points, three rebounds and one steal as the Aces made a crucial 11-point turnaround on the way to a 40-37 lead at the half.
The Aces enjoyed the three-point lead in the first half, overcoming Fajardo’s 16 points and nine rebounds in the first 24 minutes of play.
Banchero went 4-of-5 from the field while his teammates combined for 6-of-18 clip in their vital second-quarter surge highlighted by a 13-2 attack from 23-29 down.
The Beermen led by three, 19-16, in the opening quarter marred by the ejection of Ryan Arana on a flagrant foul penalty two on Calvin Abueva.
ALASKA 103 – Thoss 18, Abueva 17, Banchero 17, Manuel 12, Baguio 10, Jazul 9, Menk 6, Casio 5, Baclao 2, Dela Cruz 2, Dela Rosa 2, Exciminiano 2, Eman 1, Hontiveros 0.
SAN MIGUEL 97 – Fajardo 43, Cabagnot 19, Santos 10, Lutz 8, Tubid 6, Espinas 5, Heruela 2, Omolon 2, Ross 2, Arana 0, De Ocampo 0, Lassiter 0, Reyes 0.
Quarters: 16-19, 40-37, 74-64, 103-97
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