The Alaska Aces remained in the hunt for a twice-to-beat ticket after recovering from a huge collapse against the NLEX Road Warriors, 104-98, in the Oppo PBA Commissioner’s Cup Friday at SMART-Araneta Coliseum.
Alaska improved to 7-4 and would be assured of a playoff for the No.2 spot should Tropang TNT beat San Miguel later in the evening.
Nevertheless, the Aces already secured the No.3 seed, figuring in a best-of-three quarterfinal series and avoiding a nightmare scenario of sliding all the way down to No.7 where they would have faced a twice-to-win situation.
Calvin Abueva delivered 23 points and eight rebounds to lead the Aces who squandered a 20-point cushion in the first quarter.
Sonny Thoss made 19 points and eight boards, while RJ Jazul delivered big buckets down the stretch en route to 18 markers.
Rob Dozier, Alaska’s original import choice, finally played his first game after a long layoff due to injury. He scored 14 points and 13 boards.
Al Thornton top-scored for NLEX, which is locked at No.7, with 37 points. Sean Anthony chipped in 24 markers.
The Aces had their guns ablaze early after ending the first quarter with a commanding 34-14 lead behind Abueva who finished with 14 points in that juncture alone.
But NLEX prevented Alaska from breaking away, unleashing a 14-0 run to open the second period in a spurt ignited by Anthony.
NLEX slowly chipped the deficit and come the third period, the Road Warriors finally tasted their first lead of the game, 53-51, after a Jonas Villanueva triple.
Both teams engaged in a tight battle since then. Back-to-back triples by Jazul gave Alaska a 96-93 lead with over two minutes left, but Thornton responded with a stepback three-pointer to tie things up again.
Abueva then scored a tough putback on the other end to give Alaska back the lead, 98-96, with 1:51 left.
After miscues from imports, Baguio then scored a fastbreak layup to push Alaska’s lead, 100-96, with 21 seconds left.
Jazul stole the ball from NLEX in the next possession and scored an easy fastbreak layup to seal the win for the Aces.
The Final score Result and Replay:
Alaska 104 — Abueva 23, Thoss 19, Jazul 18, Dozier 14, Manuel 12, Baguio 7, Banchero 3, Eximiniano 3, Hontiveros 3, Dela Rosa 2, Dela Cruz 0, Menk 0.
NLEX 98 — Thornton 37, Anthony 24, Taulava 11, Enciso 9, Villanueva 7, Lanete 6, Borboran 2, Reyes 2, Alas 0,Arboleda 0, Cardona 0, E. Villanueva 0, Khobuntin 0, CAmson 0.
Quarters:34-14; 51-45; 76-74; 104-98.