(Smart Araneta Coliseum)
3:00 p.m. Blackwater vs.
5:15 p.m. Brgy. Ginebra vs. Talk ‘N Text
Barako Bull should have known it was too good to be true.
The Alaska Aces fell behind by 12 early but kicked up a storm in the next two quarters to turn back the Energy, 108-100, yesterday and tie defending champion San Miguel Beer at No. 1 in the Smart Bro-PBA Philippine Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Having secured a ninth win in 11 games and a playoff for one of two outright semifinal berths, the Aces await the outcome of the Rain or Shine-NLEX game which was ongoing at press time.
A victory by Rain or Shine, which has beaten both San Miguel (9-2) and Alaska earlier in the elimination, will give the Elasto Painters (8-2) the first semis spot and force a sudden death between RoS and the Aces for the other.
An NLEX win, however, opens the door for SMB and Alaska and knocks RoS down into the quarterfinal playoffs as the third-ranked team that will enjoy a twice-to-beat advantage against the No. 10 ballclub, either the Blackwater Elite (2-8) or Manny Pacquiao’s Mahindra Enforcers (2-8).
Already in the playoffs, Barako Bull was looking for the win that will give it a twice-to-beat edge as the sixth-placed team and render as immaterial the marquee matchup between Barangay Ginebra San Miguel and the TNT Tropang Texters this afternoon.
But after shredding the net on 7 of 13 three-point shooting in the first quarter and momentarily catching the Aces by surprise, the Energy lost their focus and started lapsing into their old form, with players taking careless shots and turning the ball recklessly.
The Aces, meanwhile, hardly strayed from the disciplined path they’ve been used to, overcoming the deficit with patience and defensive intensity before handing the ball over to the Bruise Brothers Calvin Abueva and Vic Manuel to do what pleased them in the fourth quarter.
After lighting up the first quarter with seven three-pointers, with Josh Urbiztondo draining four, the Energy turned cold in the next 12 minutes, going 1 of 7 from beyond the arc on hurried attempts and throwing away a 12-point lead to trail 50-48 at the half.
An 11-1 run to start the third did most of the damage for the Aces as they went on to take an 82-66 lead on a Sonny Thoss basket with 1:31 remaining. Barako Bull chipped away at the 16-point spread and came as close as two points twice halfway in the fourth but failed to get any nearer.
“I’m happy we’re 9-2 going into the playoffs. Our defense is pretty solid but we need to get better,” said Alaska coach Alex Compton, who drew a technical early in the third for loudly arguing a call but which apparently ignited the Aces.
ALASKA 108 – Abueva 22, Manuel 21, Baguio 11, Jazul 11, Thoss 11, Casio 9, Hontiveros 8, Banchero 7, Baclao 4, Dela Cruz 4, Dela Rosa 0, Exciminiano 0, Menk 0.
BARAKO 100 – Wilson 23, Intal 15, Lanete 14, Urbiztondo 13, Monfort 12, Fortuna 10, Brondial 7, Miranda 3, Pennisi 3, Baracael 0, Forrester 0.
Quarters: 23-30, 50-48, 82-70, 108-100