Aces outlast Hotshots
The defense that Alaska hopes to ride to get back in the PBA Philippine Cup Finals again did the trick last night as the Aces shut down Star in overtime to win, 97-90, and climb into the upper half of the standings at Smart Araneta Coliseum in Cubao.
Shorthanded with one of two legitimate centers out for the rest of the conference and the other slowly being broken in, the Aces held fort using a gung-ho style full court press that held the Hotshots to just four points in the extra five minutes.
It was the fourth win in seven games for the Aces, who will have to make do for the rest of the conference without backup center Noy Baclao and with starting slotman Sonny Thoss playing just a shade over six minutes in his first game of the season.
Calvin Abueva scored five of his 23 points in overtime and Vic Manuel scattered 25 as the undersized duo more than held the fort for the Aces against Star’s formidable frontline.
Alaska thus stayed alive in the hunt for a top two berth.
The losing finalist to San Miguel Beer here in the last two seasons, coach Alex Compton wants his Aces to be able to start playing right heading into their last four games and actually doesn’t care what position they end up in.
They play Blackwater on Sunday and then Mahindra on Jan. 22, and Compton just couldn’t help but marvel at the Floodbusters, who ripped Meralco in the first game, 105-92, after getting a career-high 25 points from Philip Paniamogan.
“Mahindra looked like a brand-new team out there today,” Compton said after RJ Jazul and JV Casio combined for 23 points and actually beat the prolific Star guard tandem of Paul Lee and Mark Barroca.
Allein Maliksi led the Hotshots with 15 points. He was responsible for forging overtime at 86-all but missed a string of shots in extension.
“That’s his job, that’s what he has been doing his whole career,” Compton said of Maliksi.
Mahindra won a second straight game and coach Chris Gavina believes they are starting to lay down the foundation of a team that looked like it didn’t belong at the start of the season.
Paniamogan made seven triples inside the final three periods.