by Jonas Terrado
Games today (Smart Araneta Coliseum)
4:30 p.m. — Columbian vs Magnolia
6:45 p.m. — San Miguel vs Ginebra
Justin Chua scored a go-ahead layup to give Phoenix Pulse a 78-76 win over Alaska and snap a three-game skid in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Chua converted off Alex Mallari’s pass with 9.8 seconds left that gave the Fuel Masters their first victory since controversial star Calvin Abueva was suspended indefinitely by the PBA Commissioner’s Office.
It also was a fitting return for coach Louie Alas, who served a two-game suspension for his part in an altercation against TNT KaTropa and for making comments detrimental to the league.
Phoenix improved to 2-3 for a share of sixth place with defending champion Barangay Ginebra San Miguel.
Import Richard Howell had 24 points and 28 rebounds after fouling out in his first two games since replacing Rob Dozier while Mallari added 15 points despite an injured right hand.
Chris Banchero scored 16 points but Alaska dropped to a 4-3 record.
Banchero’s layup off Vic Manuel’s baseball pass to even the count at 76-all with 33.2 ticks remaining.
Alaska had a chance to win it after Chua’s basket but Kevin Racal missed a corner three in the dying seconds.
In the first game, Terrence Jones went back to his old role as TNT KaTropa’s offensive machine and scored a career-high 49 points in a 104-91 win over Meralco.
Jones had a stretch of 18 straight points bridging the third and fourth to produce his fourth 40-point game of the conference and give the KaTropa their sixth win in seven games for the solo lead in the standings.
The former NBA player made 16-of-30 from the field including seven three-pointers while adding 18 rebounds and four assists in the opener of the Petron Saturday Special doubleheader.
Also key were veteran guard Ryan Reyes, who hit his first six three-pointers on his way to 16 points, and Don Trollano with 16 as they stepped up in the absence of star guard and newly-wed Jayson Castro.
Castro tied the knot with the former Lyle Mariano during a ceremony held in Pampanga with team owner Manny V. Pangilinan and PBA Chairman and Philippine Olympic Committee President Rickie Vargas serving as principal sponsors.
“The rest of the guys stepped up and played hard,” lauded TNT coach Bong Ravena, whose team also missed David Semerad due to sickness.
TNT takes a week-long break before facing Columbian on Friday at the Cuneta Astrodome.
The Bolts dropped to 3-3 despite parading a new import in Jimmie Lee Taylor.