Aces survive another cliffhangerBy Musong R. Castillo
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Alaska blew a 17-point first-half lead before pulling off a third successive close shave with a 77-73 decision of Barako Bull last night that kept the Aces in the lead of the PBA Commissioner’s Cup at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The Aces actually rallied from as many as six points down in the fourth period behind basically the same heroes in their first two victories before dealing the Energy a first loss in three games.
“We’re lucky,” Alaska coach Luigi Trillo said when asked if he expected to be leading the tournament this early.
Petron Blaze’s Renaldo Balkman put on a dunking show in the third quarter and towed the Boosters to a 105-90 destruction of sister squad Barangay Ginebra in the second game.
Balkman finished with 34 points and 10 rebounds, scoring 17 points in the third quarter where the Boosters broke away en route to a second straight game after debuting with a loss
Ginebra took a third consecutive defeat and the Gin Kings are looking at NBA veteran Vernon Macklin to take them out of the rut. Macklin will arrive early this morning to take the place of Herbert Hill.
“The team talked about consistency, that was our problem in the last conference,” Petron coach Olsen Racela said. “We want to come out with a lot of energy and intensity every game.”
Import Robert Dozier, Cyrus Baguio and Calvin Abueva provided the points in the stretch, and Sonny Thoss was again a solid force underneath for the Aces, whose two previous wins came over Rain or Shine by two and Meralco by four.
Baguio, as in the first two wins, had another critical play in the dying minutes, dispossessing Jonas Villanueva and going coast-to-coast for an unmolested layup that gave the Aces a 73-70 lead.
“Cy (Baguio) had a little bit of struggle at the start, but he busted out of it,” Trillo said of Baguio, who scored the game-winner in an 83-81 victory over Rain or Shine last week.
“He’s had a big play in all three of our wins.”
Abueva, who played just 13 minutes because of foul trouble, finished with just four points, but his only field goal of the night— a tear drop from about 12 feet out over the 6-foot-7 Mick Pennisi—lifted the Aces a 75-70 lead with 1:38 left.
Alaska had earlier erased a 61-67 deficit with an 8-0 run, and the Aces trailed for the last time at 69-70 after Barako Bull import Evan Brock completed a three-point play with 3:43 remaining.
Dozier then shoved the Aces ahead for good and finished with 19 points, 20 rebounds and two steals.
Baguio was the only other Alaska player in twin digits with 11 points, sealing the win with a free throw split in the final 3.3 seconds.
Abueva, this early the runaway leader in the Rookie of the Year race, came into the game averaging 14 points and 11 rebounds. He had eight rebounds last night.
Josh Urbiztondo finished with 15 points despite being pressured all game by Alaska, while Brock contributed 12 points and 15 rebounds.
The Energy methodically nibbled away at a 21-38 deficit in the second quarter using total team effort, with Urbiztondo and Danny Seigle striking hardest in two separate stretches in the second half to give Barako Bull that six-point lead.
JC Intal returned to the Barako Bull lineup but hardly made his presence felt, finishing with just a three-pointer in 19 minutes. Villanueva had 10 points and four assists.
Trillo, meanwhile, refused to comment on the decision of management to not let Sonny Thoss join Gilas Pilipinas’ Monday practices.
ALASKA 77—Dozier 19, Baguio 11, Casio 9, Jazul 8, Espinas 8, Thoss 8, Abueva 4, Dela Cruz 4, Hontiveros 4, Reyes 2, Ramos 0.
BARAKO 73—Urbiztondo 15, Brock 12, Villanueva 10, Macapagal 9, Seigle 9, Maliksi 4, Kramer 4, Allado 4, Intal 3, Pennisi 3.
Quarters: 23-17, 42-36, 59-60, 77-73
PETRON 105—Balkman 34, Fajardo 18, Washington 14, Santos 11, Lassiter 8, Miranda 7, Yeo 5, Cabagnot 5, Tubid 3, Sison 0, Faundo 0, Pena 0.
GINEBRA 90—Caguioa 24, Tenorio 19, Hill 16, Maierhofer 10, Baracael 7, Taha 6, Ellis 2, Labagala 2, Mamaril 2, Raymundo 2, Espiritu 0, Helterbrand 0, Hatfield 0.
Quarters: 24-20, 51-44, 86-63, 105-90