The Alaska Aces showed their playoff experience as they escaped the Meralco Bolts, 97-94, to take a 1-0 lead in their best-of-five showdown in the Oppo PBA Commissioner’s Cup semifinal series on Monday at the SMART-Araneta Coliseum.
The Aces overturned an eight-point deficit in the third quarter and made a huge 14-2 run in the payoff period to take the series opener against the Bolts.
Meralco had an 82-73 advantage in the final four minutes of the game when Alaska initiated the rally. A basket by Sonny Thoss, Rob Dozier’s free throw from a technical foul on the Meralco side, and a huge trey from veteran Dondon Hontiveros kept the Aces within striking distance, 82-79.
The Aces then converted on another free throw via a technical foul from Meralco’s import, Arinze Onuaku to come within 2, 82-80. Chris Newsome restored some order in the Meralco side by scoring a basket, but Alaska struck again with a 7-0 spurt courtesy of baskets by Rob Dozier and Cyrus Baguio, and a three-point play by Rj Jazul.
The collective defensive effort by the Aces sealed the game for them as they hung on their lead down the stretch and take the match.
Jazul led the Aces with 18 points, while Calvin Abueva finished with 15 markers. Sophomore guard Chris Banchero added 10 points, and Baguio chipped in 13.
Veteran forward Reynel Hugnatan paced Meralco with 21 points followed by Cliff Hodge’s 14 and Jared Dillinger’s 12 markers. Onuaku only delivered 11 points but collared 18 rebounds for the Bolts.
Game 2 of this series is on Wednesday, April 27.