Aces gain semifinals

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JV CASIO delivered key baskets in the stretch and helped Alaska salvage an

87-81 victory over Air21 last night that gave the elimination round topnotcher Aces the first Final Four seat in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup.

The last of the 5-foot-8 Casio’s four triples came with 75 seconds remaining and gave the Aces an 85-78 lead that eventually eliminated the Express at Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay.

Alaska advanced to the Final Four for the second straight time in this conference against either Meralco or San Mig Coffee as early as Wednesday.

Barangay Ginebra, the seventh seed, came back from 15 points down in the third quarter to pound out a 90-83 victory over No. 2 Rain or Shine and take their quarterfinal series to a do-or-die second game.

Former MVP Jay-Jay Helterbrand hit all three of his triple tries in the fourth and had 13 points in that stretch as the Gin Kings finished off the Elasto Painters with a flurry to set the KO match tomorrow at 6:45 p.m.

Bruno Sundov led the Painters with 29 points and 16 rebounds but the entire squad suffered long scoreless spells from late in the third quarter to go down in flames.

The Bolts, who won their series opener against San Mig, 88-85 on Friday, could sweep their best-of-three quarterfinal series against the defending champion Mixers today at 6:30 p.m. at Smart Araneta Coliseum in Cubao.

Talk ‘N Text, the losing finalist against the Mixers last season, could also apply the broom on fellow powerhouse Petron Blaze in the 4:15 p.m. contest. The Tropang Texters prevailed, 100-93, also on Friday.
“There’s still a lot of improvement needed from us,” Alaska coach Luigi Trillo said. “I feel we could have done a better job defensively in the fourth period.”

The Aces led by as many as 18 in the second quarter, where they held the Express to  eight points and to just 29 for the half.
But the Express battled back—as had been their trademark  the whole tournament—and got it down to 78-80 with 2:22 left after two straight jumpers by Mark Isip.

Sonny Thoss then made it a four-point Alaska lead with a long jumper before Casio’s dagger trey came after KG Canaleta missed from short range for the Express.

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

Alaska made the Final Four in the Philippine Cup but was booted out by eventual champion Talk ‘N Text in six  games.
The scores:
ALASKA 87 —Casio 19, Dozier 17, Abueva 14, Thoss 12, Baguio 12, Jazul 8, Hontiveros 3, Dela Cruz 2, Reyes 0, Espinas 0.
AIR21 81—Canaleta 16, Dunigan 13, Cortez 11, Omolon 9, Custodio 8, Isip 8, Arboleda 8, Baclao 4, Menor 4, Atkins 0, Wilson 0, Ritualo 0.
Quarters: 28-21, 46-29, 67-60, 87-81

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