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PBA: Alaska turns back fighting Kia cagers

Alaska's Eman Samigue fouled KIA Sorento's Reil Cervantes when he attempts for a dunk during PBA action at Cuneta Astrodome.   Photo by Tony Pionilla

Games Today (Smart Araneta)
4:15 p.m. – Globalport vs. Rain or Shine
7 p.m. – Ginebra vs. Barako Bull

Manila, Philippines – Take a bow, Kia Sorento.

Manny Pacquiao’s ballclub went toe-to-toe for 12 rounds with unbeaten leader Alaska yesterday before absorbing what amounted to a close unanimous decision loss, 85-75, in the PBA Philippine Cup at the Cuneta Astrodome.

Calvin Abueva delivered his second 20-20 performance with 23 points and 21 rebounds in a tireless effort that eventually zapped the energy out of the Sorento, who led, 18-11, in the first quarter, took the best the Aces could offer in the third and then refused to clinch or wither away in the ferocious final 12 minutes, going down fighting in a test of endurance that would have made their world famous playing-coach proud.

Alaska picked up its fifth straight win but was made to sweat more than it probably intended to by Kia, which dropped its fifth straight game after a rousing debut against fellow newcomer Blackwater at the Philippine Arena last month.

“Kia had this fighting heart and the technical knowledge of (assistant) coach Glenn Capacio,” said Aces coach Alex Compton, whose team dodged a more lethal bullet in San Miguel beer last Wednesday.

“They played really hard. There are certain things. We did not match their intensity, Kia was playing harder, they’re tough, they pushed us to the limit. If we weren’t able to force them to turnovers, they could’ve easily beat us.”

The superlatives aside, the Sorento experienced first-hand what a roaring Aces comeback felt like.

Heavy defensive pressure in the third period sparked a slew of Kia turnovers and triggered the Aces’ running game, from Abueva to Cyrus Baguio to Jvee Casio.

Vic Manuel and Dondon Hontiveros came off the bench to combine for 27 points for Alaska, which was without center Sonny Thoss, the 6-foot-9 center nursing a foot injury.

“Sa sobrang kakatakbo siguro,” said Compton.

Reil Cervantes led Kia with 18 points while Josh Webb had a career high 13 points with six rebounds. Also contributing to the expansion team’s cause were Chito Jaime, Kyle Pascual and even Rich Alvarez.

Kia had answers to most everything Alaska could dish off except for one thing – the man media christened “The Beast” but who his coach nicknamed “Tazmanian Devil.”

From a 63-48 deficit, the Sorento rallied to within 77-73 on a 3-point shot by Jaime from right corner. But Abueva, the source of varying monikers because of his fierce demeanor and even fiercer game, set up Baguio for a semi-hook, forced a Kia miss and then wrapped up another bedeviling show with four straight points in an 8-0 Aces run to seal the outcome.

Compton brushed aside their hot start and clean slate.

“What five-zero means is we won’t lose seven games, It’s all that means,” he said.

First Game
ALASKA 85 – Abueva 23, Manuel 15, Hontiveros 12, Baguio 11, Banchero 7, Jazul 7, Menk 3, Eman 2, Exciminiano 2, Casio 2, Bugia 1, Dela Cruz 0, Dela Rosa 0, Thoss 0.

KIA 75 – Cervantes 18, Webb 13, Pascual 10, Buensuceso 8, Jaime 6, Dehesa 5, Raymundo 4, Lingganay 3, Alvarez 3, Thiele 2, Padilla 2, Sanga 1, Revilla 0, Alonzo 0.

Quarters: 11-18, 39-38, 66-52, 85-75

Second game
TALK N ‘ TEXT 80 – Reyes Ryan 17, De Ocampo 15, Castro 12, Alapag 7, Carey 7, Fonacier 7, Rosser 7, Washington 4, Alas 2, Williams 2, Espiritu 0, Reyes Rob 0, Seigle 0, Aban 0, Labagala 0.

MERALCO 72 – David 17, Anthony 9, Hugnatan 9, Cortez 8, Dillinger 8, Macapagal 8, Atkins 5, Hodge 4, Ildefonso 2, Caram 2, Ferriols 0, Buenafe 0, Sena 0, Guevarra 0.

Quarters: 22-19, 37-33, 53-55, 80-72