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by Waylon GalvezManila, Philippines – Alaska survived a late charge by Rain or Shine as its import Cory Jefferson made big plays down the stretch last night but the Aces leaned on JVee Casio’s crucial free throws en route to a 105-102 win in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Jefferson, a late replacement for Octavius Ellis, continued his remarkable performance as he exploded for a personal conference-high of 41 points – 28 in the second half – and pulled down 13 boards.
His three-point shot with 30.1 seconds left to play gave Alaska the lead for good, 101-99, and then forced ROS rookie guard Mike Tolomia to a turnover.
Casio made free throws after he was fouled, and although Rain or Shine import Shawn Taggert buried a triple of his own to trim the deficit to one point, 102-103, the veteran Casio again canned two pressure packed foul shots for a 105-102 edge with 7.4 seconds left.
Tolomia, a member of the Gilas Cadet who led the Painters’ fightback in the final frame, was able to get rid of Casio’s defense, but his step-back triple with time winding was way off.
The victory improved Alaska’s perfect record at 4-0, this despite a depleted roster with four players on the injury list: Vic Manuel (sprained ankle), Chris Banchero (fractured right hand), Dondon Hontiveros (torn Achilles), and Noy Baclao (knee).
“I told our guys during our practice that this game might come down to the last possession,” said Alaska coach Alex Compton, whose team lost against Rain or Shine in the finals series of this same conference last season.
“They’ve got so many threats, Rain or Shine…and what about Mike Tolomia, tough kid. It was a crazy game. They (ROS) showed how tough they are. Taggart (also) had a heck of a game,” added Compton.
Taggart also had a solid performance for Rain or Shine as he collected 40 points, including 24 in the second half, with 14 rebounds, but he had little support, as only Jericho Cruz was the other double-digit scorer for the Painters with 11 points. Tolomia finished with nine markers.
Compton, however, is thankful for having the versatile 6-foot-9 Jefferson, who converted 17-of-32 shots from the field, including 5-of-8 from three three-point area in nearly 42 minutes of action.
ALASKA 105 – Jefferson 41, Casio 16, Thoss 15, Abueva 11, Racal 6, Enciso 5, Exciminiano 3, Andrada 3, Pascual 2, Cruz 2, Mendoza 1.
RAIN OR SHINE 102 – Taggart 40, Cruz 11, Tolomia 9, Yap 8, Norwood 8, Chan 7, Belga 6, Almazan 4, Washington 4, Tiu 3, Ponferada 2, Ahanmisi 0.
Quarters: 26-29, 50-44, 80-71, 105-102.