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PBA: Aces take 2-1 lead

Hontiveros vs Junemar

Game Wednesday (Smart Araneta)
7 p.m. – San Miguel Beer vs Alaska

Manila, Philippines – Once again, the Alaska Aces stole victory in the championship series as San Miguel Beer, once again, took its eyes off a 20- point plus lead.

After rallying from a 22-point deficit in Game 1, the Aces fought back from 21 points down this time, holding the Beermen without a field goal in the first 8 minutes of the fourth quarter of Game 3 last night to grab a momentum-shifting 78-70 triumph and a 2-1 lead in the PBA Philippine Cup Finals at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Game 4 of the best-of-7 series is on Wednesday.

A crowd of 13,785, the third largest this conference, and among them 8-division world champion and Kia Motors playing-coach Manny Pacquiao, watched Alaska send SMB to an all-time 4th quarter low of 6 points and 1 of 15 from the floor. The Beermen committed 6 of 17 turnovers in the last 12 minutes alone and were mauled under the boards, 21-8.

Only a rim-rattling jumper by Alex Cabagnot with 4 minutes remaining saved the Beermen from a crushing field goal shutout in the fourth.

Alaska, which trailed 61-40 and 64-46 at the end of three quarters, outscored SMB, 32-6, in the final 12 minutes, with a Sonny Thoss jumper snapping a 68-all tie, JVee Casio’s fast break layup making it a 4-point advantage and Calvin Abueva opening a 74-68 lead with another transition basket.

The three combined for 37 of Alaska’s total output and keyed a dominant 50-22 performance inside the paint and 20-9 in fast break conversions. Pounded in rebounds in Game 2, the Aces won the battle of the boards in Game 3, with Abueva hauling down 10 of his 15 in the fourth quarter to SMB’s total of 8.

Arwind Santos led SMB with 20 points but was scoreless in the fourth, while June Mar Fajardo was held down to 13 points and 9 rebounds, contributing 3 free throws in the final period. Leo Austria, the SMB coach, was a picture of frustration as owned up to yet another championship meltdown.

“I take full responsibility for the loss,” he said. “It’s my fault.”

Curiously, however, Austria then spread the blame elsewhere.

“But I can only do so much because I’m not the one playing. I have no control over what happens inside,” he said. “The turnovers was the main factor. The players just panicked.”

Alaska stole Game 1 after trailing by 22 early in the second quarter. In Game 3, the Aces committed grand larceny on a more impressive scale.

“Alam ko sawa na kayo pero everything really started with our defense,” said Alaska coach Alex Compton. “They play hard in practice and we just draw from that.”

Thoss, who had 8 points in the last quarter, echoed the sentiment.

“We didn’t give up anything. That was our defensive mindset,” Thoss said. “We laid everything on the line.”

A 13-0 run in the second quarter, highlighted by three 3-pointers, propelled the Beermen from a 16-9 deficit to a 22-16 lead which they protected up to the half, 35-27.

Alaska, whose halftime output was its lowest in two conferences, surprisingly outscored SMB inside the paint, 22-12. But Arwind Santos had 9 points and the trio of Ronald Tubid, Marclo Lassiter and Alex Cabagnot each drained a triple after the Beermen missed their first 9 treys.

SMB trailed, 13-8, in the first quarter after going 4 of 18 from the field, its meager production a team low in the last four conferences.

Doubled every time he puts the ball down, June Mar Fajardo played 17 minutes out of 24, adding a quiet 7 points from his rare encounters with Aces big men Sonny Thoss and Sam Eman.

Play was halted just 5 minutes into the game after Santos, who suffered a bloody cut on top of his head in the third quarter of Game 2, had a nick above his right eye attended to in yet another collision with Alaska’s Calvin Abueva.

Responsible for inflicting the gash on Santos two days ago, Abueva, fined heavily for involvement in separate skirmishes when SMB leveled the series, 1-1, flailed his arm after getting fouled by Santos and hit the 2013 MVP below the eyebrow.

ALASKA 78 – Abueva 16, Casio 11, Thoss 10, Exciminiano 8, Hontiveros 8, Baguio 7, Jazul 7, Manuel 6, Eman 3, Banchero 2, Dela Cruz 0, Menk 0, Dela Rosa 0, Espinas 0.

SAN MIGUEL 70 – Santos 20, Fajardo 13, Cabagnot 7, Lassiter 7, Ross 6, Semerad 4, Lutz 3, Fortuna 3, Tubid 3, Kramer 2, Omolon 2, Maierhofer 0, Pascual 0, Chua 0.

Quarters: 13-8, 27-35, 46-64, 78-70