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PBA: Alaska in finals

CALVIN Abueva of Alaska, center, drives through the defense of Star’s Yousef Taha, left, and Marqus Blakely in Game 3 of the PBA Governors’ Cup semifinal series last night at the Smart Araneta Coliseum. (PBA Images)

Aces complete sweep of Hotshots

The Alaska Aces toppled the last standing remnant of Purefoods-Star’s Grand Slam season yesterday, sweeping the Hotshots, 82-77, in the PBA Governors’ Cup best-of-5 semifinal series and advancing to their 28th championship at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Two years after Luigi Trillo handed the Aces their 13th title and first in the post-Tim Cone era, Alex Compton, who took over after Trillo stepped down, seeks to make it 15 overall for the Wilfred Steven Uytengsu franchise against the winner of the gripping Rain or Shine-San Miguel Beer series, now tied at 1-1 following the Elasto Painters’ spectacular comeback win last Saturday.

Romeo Travis, a high school teammate of Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James back in Akron, Ohio, will have a great story to tell his boyhood buddy after scoring 10 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter of Game 3, including a dagger 3-pointer in front of the Alaska bench that gave the Aces a 79-77 lead with 1:59 remaining.

He then redeemed himself from an atrocious inbound error that resulted in a backing violation by finding forward Vic Manuel wide open on the right side for a one-pump jumper that shattered the final reminder of the Hotshots’ Grand Slam finish last season.

Purefoods won it all in 2014, but surrendered the 2015 Philippine Cup, as the Star Hotshots, to San Miguel Beer and the Commissioner’s Cup to Talk ‘N Text. Now the Governors’ Cup is lost as well to an opponent that had all the answers to Star’s strategies and questions which defied any clear response.

Manuel added 14 points coming off the bench, 8 in the last 12 minutes, and Cyrus Baguio and rookie Rome dela Rosa had 11 points each.

Alaska won Game 1 after coming back from 18 points down in the first half, 97-91, and made it 2-0 with a 95-74 rout. The series looked headed for a Game 4 after Star hung on tenaciously to a 77-74 edge with 2:53 remaining.

But the Hotshots quickly unraveled from there as the Aces locked on defensively on their prey which went scoreless in those final crucial moments.

Unstoppable when he had the ball because of his versatility, Travis made it a one-point deficit on a driving layup before asking for the ball from Jayvee Casio in their return possession, drilling in a 3-pointer from right of the keyhole.

An exchange of turnovers had the Hotshots with a last chance to extend the series after Travis’ long inbound turnover. But James Yap, who led Star with 20 points and was 3 of 6 from 3-point range at that point, opted to take a go-ahead 3 after failing to shake off Calvin Abueva and missed, setting up Manuel for a crushing jumper from the right, 30 seconds left.

“When you have great respect for someone, it brings out the best in you,” said Compton. “And that’s what we have for Purefoods and Coach Tim. That’s a champion team. We just adjusted and played as hard as we could.”

Yap was 6 of 17 from the floor and Blakely 7 of 18. But Joe Devance was 2 of 10 in 35 minutes.

Alaska enjoyed a 48-38 points advantage inside the paint and 28-20 in bench scoring. The Aces also shot 53 percent from inside the arc to Star’s 44 percent.

ALASKA 82 – Travis 19, Manuel 14, Baguio 11, Dela Rosa 11, Casio 9, Banchero 5, Abueva 5, Thoss 4, Hontiveros 4, Baclao 0, Jazul 0.

STAR 77 – Yap 20, Blakely 15, Mallari 9, Pingris 8, Devance 8, Taha 6, Barroca 5, Reavis 4, Simon 2, Melton 0, Pennisi 0.

Quarters: 16-23, 37-46, 60-65, 82-77