Reserving its full strength for a well-planned second half assault, the Alaska Aces overcame a double-digit deficit early in the third quarter to dump Barangay Ginebra San Miguel, 114-108, and clinch the first semifinal berth in the PBA Governors’ Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The Aces, who trailed 65-49 four minutes into the second half, razed the Kings’ 16-point lead within a seven-minute span, with Dondon Hontiveros’ 3-pointer giving Alaska a 74-73 edge.
Alaska averted a do-or-die playoff game and booked a best-of-5 semifinal showdown with the winner of the Star Hotshots-Globalport rubber match tomorrow.
“I think we showed a lot character coming back from that deficit,” said Aces coach Alex Compton, who designed an elaborate scheme where forward Vic Manuel came off fresh from the bench in the second half and wreacked havoc on the Kings.
The Hotshots, with the defense of the last title from their Grand Slam season on the balance, erased half of a twice-to-beat deficit by demolishing Globalport, 126-73, earlier.
A semifinal berth awaits the winner of the 5:15 p.m. rubber match, with the dripping wet Batang Pier given 48 hours to dry off after getting tossed overboard by the Hotshots, who put the game away in the first quarter after outscoring Globalport, 37-18.
The sleeper of a playoff was essentially over after 4 ½ minutes. Mark Barroca broke a 7-all count with a jumper and the Hotshots went on a 9-0 run to set the tone for the ridiculously lopsided game.
Globalport missed 12 of 19 field goal attempts, including four 3-pointers. A total of 10 turnovers translated into 12 extra points for Star which went 9-0 in fast break points, 18-6 inside the shaded area and 10-2 off the bench.
And that’s just in the first 12 minutes before tons of offense crashed on the meek-as-lamb Batang Pier, who waved no white flag but rolled over nonetheless, with forward Billy Mamaril demonstrating Globalport’s lone sign of defiance.
Furious after two calls went against them, Mamaril hammered a driving PJ Simon late in the first quarter, sending Simon crashing hard under the basket and drawing a flagrant one foul.
“I’ll bottle it and sell for a million bucks to the NBA, if I know what happened,” said Star coach Tim Cone. “I guess we just came out with a big punch, staggered them and just kept pummeling. Manny Pacquiao would have been proud.”
Pacquiao is gone, along with his Kia Carnival, victims of the grueling elimination round schedule. But from the point of view of the beating Globalport absorbed from Star, Kia might have been more fortunate.
In the end, what was left to be decided was whether the Batang Pier would surpass the all-time playoff record for losing margin of 48, twice established in the 2009 Fiesta Conference when Burger King clobbered Sta. Lucia Realty and the 2000 Commissioner’s Cup when Alaska routed Tanduay.
Globalport went under by 50 points with more than full quarter left after Justin Melton completed a 3-point play with 5:22 remaining in the third and went as high as 63 points, 121-58, on Lester Alvarez’ 3-pointer with 4:51 to go.
The 53-point winning margin was fourth all-time in the league, with the Batang Pier needing at least four successive shots in the waning seconds to bring it down from 55.
Lost in the charade was a three-step breakaway dunk by James Yap – a rarity for the sweet-shooting Hotshots star – three minutes into the second half that was greeted with a roar from Star fans, a euphoric cry from Marqus Blakely and disbelief from the Globalport bench which begged in vain for a travelling call.
“I’m just glad he didn’t get hurt,” Cone said, chuckling. “He turned back the clock. I remember him doing it two-handed.”
STAR 126 – Blakely 23, Barroca 16, Mallari 15, Yap 15, Melton 14, Taha 8, Simon 8, Maliksi 7, Devance 6, Alvarez 3, Gaco 3, Pingris 3, Pennisi 3, Allado 2, Reavis 0.
GLOBALPORT 73 – Romeo 18, Famous 16, Caperal 8, Semerad 5, Miranda 5, Krayem 4, Pringle 4, Isip 4, Pinto 2, Hayes 2, Jensen 2, Mamaril 2, Buenafe 1, Taha 0, Kramer 0, Ponferrada 0.
Quarters: 37-18, 73-35, 103-54, 126-73.
ALASKA 114 – Travis 29, Manuel 14, Thoss 14, Hontiveros 13, Baguio 10, Banchero 9, Abueva 8, Casio 7, Dela Rosa 5, Jazul 3, Exciminiano 2, Baclao 0, Menk 0.
GINEBRA 108 – Johnson 28, Mercado 21, Slaughter 19, Aguilar 15, Tenorio 14, Kim 5, Baracael 4, Marcelo 2, Pena 0, Monfort 0, Brondial 0.
Quarters: 27-31, 45-53, 75-77, 114-108