Less than a week out of the hospital, Calvin Abueva churned out a career game that sparked Alaska’s 88-85 victory over Meralco and snapped the Aces’ four-game losing streak in the PBA Philippine Cup eliminations at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Abueva, who had just five practices after being confined for three days because of a nasal infection, scored 20 points and grabbed 18 rebounds with his energy on both ends helping the Aces improve to 6-6 and back within playoff range.
“I really just went hard out there and gave it my all because we really want to make the best-of-three,” Abueva said in Filipino, referring to an elimination round finish that would give them at least the No. 6 ranking.
Out of the running for the top two and the twice-to-beat advantage that goes with it, Alaska is in a fifth place tie with the Bolts at the moment.
“Calvin was all over the place,” coach Luigi Trillo said. “You see what he brings to the table. He inspires the entire team.”
JV Casio and Mac Baracael nailed back-to-back triples that ushered the Aces to an 85-82 lead heading into the final 1:32 before the Aces’ tough defense the rest of the way pulled Meralco down to a similar 6-6 record.
Abueva, probably the most abused rookie in the lot together with Meralco’s Cliff Hodge, also went home with a busted kisser after getting it from Hodge in the Bolts’ potential game-tying play at the buzzer.
Initially, there was a foul called on Abueva while Hodge was attempting the triple, but the referees, after a review of the tape, later ruled that the buzzer had sounded before Abueva committed the foul.
Cyrus Baguio scored 19 points, including the windmill layup with 63 seconds left that gave the Aces a five-point cushion, before Reynel Hugnatan completed a three-point play that inched Meralco to within two.
ALASKA 88—Abueva 20, Baguio 19, Baracael 12, Thoss 12, Casio 9, Espinas 7, Jazul 6, Dela Cruz 2, Eman 1, Reyes 0, Hontiveros 0.
MERALCO 85—Ross 14, Cardona 14, Hodge 13, Hugnatan 11, Mercado 10, Borboran 9, Nabong 6, Reyes 5, Buenafe 3, Salvacion 0.
Quarters: 24-21, 43-34, 64-66, 88-85