Alaska seizes first semis slot after holding off Air21


PBA IMAGES / Nuki Sabio

MANILA, Philippines – Top seed Alaska held off a late run by Air21 to fashion out an 87-81 win and book the first semifinals ticket Saturday in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup at the SM Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.

The Aces led by as much as 17, 46-29, to start the third period before the Express rallied to within two, 78-80, after a 9-0 run capped by a wide open jumper by Mark Isip.

“I thought we had a good first half. We seemed sharp even with the layoff. But that’s the first half, in the second we had a lot of turnovers. I feel that we could’ve done a better job defensively,” said Alaska head coach Luigi Trillo. “You give credit to Air21, they’re a tough team.”

Alaska though, responded with a 5-0 surge highlighted by a step back triple by JVee Casio, who had 19 points and five assists, to make it, 85-78, with 1:15 left.

“We just stuck to our game plan,” said Casio.

The Aces will face the winner between the San Mig Coffee and Meralco series where the Bolts are leading, 1-0.

A swipe by Casio – leading into a breakaway layup by Calvin Abueva pushed Alaska’s advantage back to double digits, 80-69, with 5:05 remaining and seemed as if the Aces were out of harm’s way.

Robert Dozier added 17 points, 22 rebounds and four blocks for Alaska.

Nino Canaleta led the Express with 16 points, including nine in the third period, but shot just six-of-22 from the field and had five turnovers.

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