Alaska whips Phoenix five
Starting out hot and finishing at boiling point, Alaska mowed down Phoenix Petroleum, 93-75, on Wednesday night as the Aces—who have never looked this good in almost two years—are now staring the PBA Philippine Cup leaders in the face and are making a case for a twice-to-beat privilege.
Calvin Abueva didn’t just warm up this time. He came off the bench at Mall of Asia Arena to pump in 21 points that went with 14 rebounds and four steals in 25 minutes and lead a hardnosed defensive stand by Alaska that starved the Fuel Masters to a franchise low total at the half.
The Aces clamped down hard and gave up 24 points in the first two periods, and when the Fuel Masters tried making a game out of it in the fourth quarter by coming to within 14, Alaska scooted away for good on the way to rising to 5-2 and solo third.
Only San Miguel Beer and Magnolia are better with 5-1 slates, though the Beermen and the Hotshots are sure to part ways as they still have to face each other later on.
Phoenix couldn’t find the same game it dished out in upsetting Barangay Ginebra last week and slipped to 3-4.
“We gave up 24 (first half) points. If I can find a way to bottle that, I’d be a millionaire,” Alaska coach Alex Compton said with a smile, marveling at the great job they did on Phoenix’s offense. “It was one of those halves where our defense had a lot of teeth.”
Chris Banchero led the Aces with 22 and three more tossed in 10 each in a balanced scoring attack that Compton counterpart Louie Alas could not find.
Matthew Wright was bottled up the whole night and struggled to finish with 16 points—all of them coming from close range—as the Aces never allowed him to settle into a groove from the perimeter. He was 0-for-6 from beyond the arc.
Pushed to the wall by an enemy taken lightly by almost everyone, TNT KaTropa did enough to avoid a laughable upset in the other game.
“I didn’t see that they gave their best today,” coach Nash Racela said of his Texters, who barely nosed out cellar-dwelling KIA Picanto, 90-85, to climb to the upper half of the 12-team pack.
It took two RR Garcia baskets inside the dying minutes for the Texters to pull this one out of the fire and rise to 4-3 for fourth place at the moment, as Racela stayed on target for at least a top-six finish.
Meanwhile, Commissioner Willie Marcial suspended the referees who worked the Barangay Ginebra-San Miguel Beer game last Sunday because of the confusion that marred the final 4.6 seconds of a 100-96 Kings victory.
Three referees got one-week suspensions each while a fourth one was slapped a three-week ban even as Marcial also suspended the game barker and a table official for failing to spot the error that led to San Miguel’s Chris Ross taking a free throw instead of Chico Lanete.
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