Alaska withstands Meralco rally, nails last playoff berth
MANILA, Philippines—Riding high on its victory over playoff-bound Barako Bull, Alaska weathered a late storm by Meralco to win, 94-91, and earn the last quarterfinals slot in the 2014 PLDT MyDSL Philippine Cup Monday night at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Sonny Thoss scored 21 points and grabbed seven rebounds while veteran swingman Dondon Hontiveros calmly sank four free throws in the final 8.7 seconds for the Aces, who blew a 17-point third quarter lead.
“It’s the first time in this conference that we won back-to-back,” Alaska head coach Luigi Trillo noted during the post-game presser after his team beat Barako Bull and eliminated Meralco in two nights. “I’m happy for the guys. [It was] more of attrition for us.”
“Meralco didn’t give up. We needed to weather that storm,” said Trillo, whose squad arranged a date with top-seeded Barangay Ginebra San Miguel in the quarterfinals on Wednesday with the Aces needing to pull off a tough feat in having to beat the Kings twice to advance.
Slowly but surely, the Bolts found their way back behind the familiar hot hands of Gary David, who had 16 points alone in the fourth quarter, including a rare four-point play that cut the Aces’ lead down to just one, 90-89, with still 51.8 ticks remaining.
David couldn’t make it all though as he missed a potential go-ahead jumper with Cyrus Baguio draped all over him after Thoss muffed two freebies that would’ve put Alaska ahead by three with 35.6 seconds left.
Hontiveros, who added 20 points, was steady at the stripe with his final free throws setting the final count after Cliff Hodge’s heave went way off as time ran out on the Bolts’ conference.
“Dondon played his heart out,” said Trillo. “I haven’t been in knockout matches like this. We want to cherish this.”
Alaska went on a 17-2 run capped by a 3-pointer by Hontiveros to build a 61-44 buffer at the 5:46 mark of the third quarter but Meralco came firing back quickly got the deficit back down to one-possession on a follow up by David, 74-71, with still 8:55 remaining in the game.
Baguio kept the Bolts at bay as he scored straight eight points for the Aces at one point.
He completed a three-point play that extended his team’s lead back to eight, 86-78, with 3:31 remaining but it didn’t take long before Meralco got back to its feet anew.
David, who paced his team with 20 points, converted his own three-point play 11 seconds later before draining a trey from the left corner and sinking the bonus free throw as well off of JVee Casio’s sixth foul that got the Bolts to their closest.
Baguio and Gabby Espinas tallied 16 points each for the Aces, who came off an 89-80 win over the Energy Sunday night.
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