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PBA: Aces takes Game 1 in OT

Arwind Santos, Calvin Abueva and June Mar Fajardo

Game Tomorrow
(Smart Araneta Coliseum)
7 p.m. – Alaska vs San Miguel

Manila, Philippines – San Miguel Beer found out the hard way why double-digit leads are never a safe bet against the Alaska Aces.

The Aces got up from 22 points down in the second quarter, a Flagrant 1 call on Calvin Abueva earlier and another disastrous slip by Jvee Casio late in regulation last night to shock the Beermen in overtime, 88-82, in Game 1 of the PBA Philippine Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Abueva had 22 points and 10 rebounds, rookie Chris Banchero added 16, Dondon Hontiveros 15 with 4 three-point shots and Casio 13 with 3 triples as Alaska completed another remarkable comeback in the post-playoffs.

Game 2 is tomorrow at 7 p.m. at the Big Dome where the rest of the best-of-7 series is scheduled.

“We had a bad start as we could have; we came out flat. Parang kami ang galing sa long layoff,” said Alaska coach Alex Compton. “But they guys never gave up and they kept chipping away.”

After a horrendous first quarter where they shot just 11 percent (2 of 19) to trail by 22 points twice, the first at 27-5 at the end of 12 minutes, the Aces cut the deficit to 10 behind a 13-2 run anchored around their pressure defense capped by a Hontiveros 3-pointer.

The Beermen struck back with an 8-2 run to get out of the first half with a 45-31 lead but the damage has been done.

Abueva bucked a Flagrant 1 foul off rookie David Semerad with 3:09 left in the first period to lead the Aces’ comeback with 11 points.

Banchero added 8 to Alaska’s cause while Hontiveros, who missed his first 3-point attempts, came through when he was needed as in Game 6 of the semifinal series against Rain or Shine where he buried five 3s in the fourth quarter.

San Miguel raced to a 15-5 lead as Alaska missed 6 of its first 7 shots, with the Beermen shooting 52 percent in the quarter. June Mar Fajardo had 8 points despite multiple defenses around him while Chris Lutz contributed 7.

But Alaska, which came back from 17 points in Game 1 of the semis against Rain or Shine and 19 in Game 5, never wavered from its commitment to a game plan that worked splendidly as the second half wore on.

A 3-pointer by RJ Jazul gave the Aces their first lead at 63-62 and San Miguel looked in big trouble after Alaska, ahead, 74-73, took possession with 13.5 seconds remaining and the ball in the hands of Casio.

But Casio relived the nightmare of costly slip against Rain or Shine in the 2014 Governors’ Cup semis, taking another slide near the midcourt line and was tied up by Chris Ross.

Fajardo, dead tired after playing more than 47 minutes and getting held down to 14 points (with 17 rebounds), was fouled by Abueva but split his free throws to keep the score tied.

Hontiveros got off a 3-point shot with Fajardo’s all over him at the buzzer and missed, sending the game into overtime.

Casio atoned for his slip in the extra period with a big 3-pointer for 79-76 and Hontiveros followed through with another 3 to virtually seal the outcome.

“I don’t know what happened. We were unable to sustain our intensity,” said SMB coach Leo Austria who rued the Beermen’s 26 turnovers. “How can you win a championship with that many errors?”

What do you think?

Written by Johnny Lugay

PBA: San Miguel, Alaska start series tonight

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