The Alaska Aces survived a fierce rally down the stretch to essay a 76-70 win against the Meralco Bolts in their winner-takes-all match in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup playoffs on Wednesday at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
Calvin Abueva made good on his promise to finish the series with a win came out with some key defensive stops in the end game. He wound up with 19 markers on top of 8 rebounds. Teammate Chris Banchero came off the bench and scored 18 points in the win, while import Rob Dozier finished with 14 points and 18 boards.
The Bolts were off to a good start when they raced to an early 12-6 lead. However, Meralco lost Alapag in the first quarter when the veteran playmaker injured his hand. He did not return to the game after being subbed out. Though rookie Baser Amer filled his spot impressively, his leadership and experienced were sorely missed especially in the crucial moments of the game.
Meralco could have stolen the victory had they capitalized on Alaska’s early foul troubles and converted their free throws in the payoff period. Meralco missed four free throw attempts, while Alaska made six in the last 30 seconds to seal the deal.
The Aces are in the finals for the third straight time and are gunning for their 15th championship ring in the league. They will face the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters in a best-of-seven series title showdown that will start on Friday at the same venue.