PLAYING its heart out in a game it absolutely could not afford to lose, Alaska leveled its best-of-seven PBA Philippine Cup Final Four series with powerhouse Talk ‘N Text at 2-all after a 104-99 decision at Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay last night.
Calvin Abueva, the super rookie, was the epitome of the hard-nosed Alaska stand, with JV Casio and Cyrus Baguio remaining cool under immense pressure in the stretch with critical baskets that helped the Aces pull out the win.
Alaska held the Tropang Texters to 18 points in the third quarter and was 13 points up after just 2:30 of the fourth before holding off the defending champions in the endgame with brilliant plays on both ends.
“There’s no reason to celebrate,” Alaska coach Luigi Trillo said. “All we did was make this a best-of-three (series). We have to go back to the drawing board and prepare for Game 5.”
The crucial fifth game is scheduled tomorrow also at the Pasay venue, and by that time, the two protagonists in this series could already know who the first finalist could be with Rain or Shine trying to wrap things up against San Mig Coffee today.
Rain or Shine holds a 3-1 lead over the Mixers and are heavily tipped to put the finishing touches to a dominant semifinal series with the pre-tournament favorite San Mig Coffee.
Casio, who, together with Abueva sat out majority of the third period because of four fouls, finished with 22 points and Baguio had 18, including the dagger triple with 75 seconds remaining that gave the Aces a 99-94 lead.
“It was one of those games, the grind-it-out wins for us,” Trillo said.
Abueva had 15 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks and figured in a key sequence that had him picking up the sixth foul of Ranidel De Ocampo before scoring on the other end that made it 96-92 going into the final 1:38.
With a 3-1 lead, the Painters’ chances of advancing to a second straight Finals appearance and getting a crack at a second straight title certainly look enticing.
“Our plan is to finish it off (today),” Guiao told scribes, shortly after their 83-74 Game 4 victory on Thursday.
ALASKA 104—Casio 22, Baguio 18, Abueva 15, Hontiveros 13, Baracael 12, Espinas 9, Thoss 9, Reyes 2, Jazul 2, Dela Cruz 2, Eman 0.
TALK ‘N TEXT 99—Alapag 17, Castro 16, De Ocampo 14, Fonacier 12, Carey 12, Williams 11, Reyes 9, Peek 5, Dillinger 2, Aban 1, Raymundo 0, Gamalinda 0, Alvarez 0, Ferriols 0.
Quarters: 30-25, 55-56, 81-74, 104-99