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PBA: Aces go for 2-0 lead vs Painters

Beau Belga vs. Gabby Espinas

by Tito S. Talao

Game Today (Smart Araneta)
5 p.m. – Rain or Shine vs Alaska

Manila, Philippines – Suddenly for the Alaska Aces, a 51-point nightmare now seems just like a bad dream. They still wake up in a cold sweat, but no longer are there demons to haunt them.

The Aces got a measure of revenge from the muck-raking humiliation they absorbed from Rain or Shine two weeks ago, shocking their tormentor, 97-93, Friday night, in Game 1 of their semifinal showdown in the PBA PLDT Home Telpad Governors Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Alaska hopes to push the Elasto Painters closer to the cliff today when its shoots for a 2-0 lead in the best-of-5 series, a development that could set up the Aces for one of the biggest comeback stories in PBA history.

Gametime is 5 p.m. also at the Big Dome.

Though he didn’t say it out loud, Alaska coach Alex Compton must be thanking the gods for sending the Aces back to earth with a heavy thud.

“It’s good that everywhere we go, we’re reminded of that 51-point loss,” he said. “Finally we got them (Rain or Shine). But this is just the first game. Nobody’s won a five-game series in Game One.”

Nobody has lost it either by dropping the opener.

Rain or Shine, however, will come to rue a crucial turnover by inbounding Paul Lee, whose chest pass to Jeff Chan, curling out of a stack formation, was swiped by Henry Wallker in the closing seconds. Walker went on to hit two free throws after getting fouled in transition to give Alaska a 97-93 lead with three seconds remaining.

The Elasto Painters had a 93-88 lead with 3:59 left following an Arizona Reid jumper. But the E-Painters went on an icy funk, missing wide open 3s by Lee and Chan and opening the door for the Aces’ return.

Reid led Rain or Shine with 27 points and 11 rebounds, while Lee contributed 19 points on 5-of-7 shooting from three-point range. He also committed six of the team’s 15 turnovers.

Walker had 14 of his 31 points in the fourth quarter, including the go-ahead jumper that made it 95-93 and the defensive gem that sealed the outcome.

“I thought Henry was great down the stretch. He used his size to his advantage,” said Compton.

Alaska extended its winning run from the elimination to five while halting the Elasto Painters’ streak at six. Still, redemption is still two wins away for Alaska which suffered a 123-72 blowout loss to RoS last June 4, shattering their image and precipitating a couple of negative reports..

“This gives us confidence,” said Compton. “Hopefully we can build from this.”

Meanwhile, Game 2 of the series between Grand Slam-seeking San Mig Super Coffee, ahead 1- 0, and Talk ‘N Text was ongoing at presstime, with both teams looking to either make or thwart history in their revenge-colored semis.

The Mixers are gunning to become only the fourth team after the Crispa Redmanizers (1976 and 1983), San Miguel Beer (1989) and Alaska Milk (1996) to complete a three-conference sweep of a single season, while the Tropang Texters are seeking payback for an excruciating Game 7 loss to San Mig (then known as B-Meg Llamados) during the 2012 Commissioner’s Cup Finals.

San Mig coach Tim Cone is also eyeing his second Grand Slam after leading Alaska during the Johnny Abarrientos, Jojo Lastimosa and Bong Hawkins era 18 years ago.

ALASKA 97 – Walker 31, Thoss 16, Manuel 14, Casio 7, Jazul 7, Abueva 7, Espinas 5, Hontiveros 5, Baguio 5, Dela Cruz 0.

RAIN OR SHINE 93 – Reid 27, Lee 19, Chan 14, Tiu 8, Norwood 6, Arana 5, Belga 4, Almazan 3, Ibanes 3, Cruz 2, Nuyles 2, Rodriguez 0.

Quarters: 19-24, 46-45, 73-74, 97-93.