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PBA: Aces make it 2-0

STAR forward James Yap, center, drives against four Alaska defenders, from left, Jayvee Casio, Rome dela Rosa, Romeo Travis and Calvin Abueva in Game 2 of the PBA Governors’ Cup semifinal series last night at the Smart Araneta Coliseum. (Ernie U. Sarmiento)

Alaska one away from best-of-7 finals

Game Today (Smart Araneta)
5 p.m. – Rain or Shine vs San Miguel (Game 2)

The Alaska Aces bench stood alongside the starters last night to take part in the process of dethroning a defending PBA champion.

Savoring the feeling of the wind on their faces instead of a slipstream, the Aces took a commanding 2-0 lead over Star in their Governors’ Cup semifinal series by drawing the best from even their least-used players in a 95-74 rout that cast doubt on the Hotshots’ ability to defend the last remaining title from their Grand Slam season.

The biggest lead was 21 points (93-72), just 3 points shy of the 24-point second quarter deficit which Alaska overcame in taking the opener two days ago. And it was 5 more than the 16 points which they stared down in the third quarters in the playoffs against Barangay Ginebra San Miguel.

“I won’t lie, I’d rather be in the lead all the time than be trailing,” said Alaska coach Alex Compton when asked how it felt to be holding the advantage instead of lugging a deficit for a change going to the second half.

Romeo Travis had 19 points and 14 rebounds and Calvin Abueva 11 points, all in the first half when the Aces took control and never let go. Remarkably, sharing the spotlight with two of Alaska’s key players were two who seldom leave the shadows – 2010 No. 1 draft pick Noy Baclao and reserve guard Chris Exciminiano.

Baclao played for 17:42 minutes and scored 10 points with 5 rebounds and an assist while Exciminiano also had 10 points, with two triples to go with 2 rebounds and 2 assists in 14:37.

Compton, whose wife gave birth to a baby girl – the couple’s third child – last Tuesday, gushed over Baclao and Exciminiano’s contributions, despite being ‘non-marquee players,” but maintained no early celebration is forthcoming.

“Our work is not finished,” he said. “It is finished when we win the third game. And then we think about the finals. We’re not gonna celebrate, we have practice tomorrow. It’s gonna be another battle (on Sunday).”

The Aces took the half, 47-41, by shooting 57 percent inside the 3-point arc while holding the Hotshots to 34 percent. Calvin Abueva came off the bench for 11 points, including a buzzer-beater 3 that tied the game, 23-all, at the end of the first quarter.

Exciminiano took over in the second period with two 3-pointers and eight points along with Travis as Alaska opened a 47-39 lead, a vast improvement from Game 1 where the Aces trailed, 51-36, at the half before kicking off that huge second half comeback.

Star led 20-12 late in the first quarter, but the Aces had learned their lesson and reeled in the Hotshots before it could do break the game open like before. Abueva had 7 points in the period and Jayvee Casio 6.

Meanwhile, San Miguel Beer guns for a 2-0 lead over Rain or Shine in their series at 5 p.m. today.

The Beermen overcame a 24-point second quarter lead in turning back the Elasto Painters, 101-95, last Thursday with Marcio Lassiter and Arizona Reid each scoring 22 points and Junemar Fajardo, who labored through early foul trouble, 20 with 10 rebounds.

“Knowing a team like Rain or Shine, it will be more physical. We know na babalik yan. Pero nasa amin ang momentum after winning Game 1 kaya nasa amin na kung paano aalagaan,” SMB forward Arwind Santos said.

“It’s not about getting embarrassed, or thinking of that game in that matter,” said ROS coach Yeng Guiao of the blown 24-point margin. “The best teams and the best coaches lose in different ways. It really happens. Better teams have lost in worst ways.

“We’re pretty satisfied, although there were defensive breakdowns. We’ll see how we can minimize these defensive lapses. A series likethis will still boil down in the endgame. This is still going to be a good, long series. We expect to go Game 5.” (With report from Waylon Galvez)

ALASKA 95 – Travis 19, Abueva 11, Baclao 10, Exciminiano 10, Banchero 9, Manuel 9, Baguio 8, Hontiveros 8, Casio 7, Thoss 4, Dela Rosa 0, Jazul 0.

STAR 74 – Blakely 19, Simon 17, Yap 10, Mallari 8, Pingris 7, Pennisi 5, Melton 3, Barroca 3, Devance 2, Taha 0, Maliksi 0.

Quarters: 23-23, 47-41, 71-58, 95-74