by Jonas Terrado
Alaska leaned on the timely heroics of Chris Banchero and Vic Manuel to survive Meralco in overtime, 108-103, and claim the last quarterfinals berth in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Banchero completed the rally from a 95-91 deficit by hitting a turnaround jumper with 1.0 seconds left in regulation before Manuel scored four in the extension to seal the Aces’ place in the next phase of the midseason tournament.
Manuel finished with 23 points and Banchero posted 15 points and nine assists for Alaska, which won for the first time since a 93-89 win against the same team last June 9 in Antipolo City.
Their victory in the playoff for the No. 8 spot earned the Aces the right to face top seed TNT KaTropa and prolific import Terrence Jones in Sunday’s quarterfinals at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
TNT, which topped the standings by winning 10 of 11 games, carries a twice-to-beat advantage.
“So many guys made plays and I’m proud of them,” said a relieved Alaska coach Alex Compton.
Import Diamon Simpson posted 20 points and 23 rebounds, Jvee Casio had 14 points and six assists, Simon Enciso 13 points and Jeron Teng with 12 points and four rebounds.
Import Delroy James fired 34 points but Meralco fell short of advancing to the Commissioner’s Cup quarters for the first time since the 2011.
James nearly sealed the deal for the Bolts when his three-pointer with 49.8 seconds left in the fourth made the score, 93-89. Manuel answered by draining a jumper but Chris Newsome hit two foul shots for 95-91 after Enciso’s foul, 20 ticks remaining.
Banchero missed a contested three but Casio hustled for the offensive rebound and found Banchero for a three-pointer that cut it to one, 95-94. Newsome split his charities on the next play, setting up Banchero’s tying shot.
Meralco took its final lead at 102-100 before Manuel made back-to-back baskets, the last making a one-handed layup off a Casio pass with 1:16 to go in overtime.
James split both free throws before Teng scored a follow-up off a Manuel miss to make it 106-103. James failed to convert a three and Simpson grabbed the offensive rebound after Banchero muffed a triple, forcing Meralco to foul twice.
ALASKA 108 — Manuel 23, Simpson 20, Banchero 15, Casio 14, Enciso 13, Teng 12, Thoss 5, Racal 2, Pascual 2, Baclao 2.
MERALCO 103 — James 34, Newsome 20, Almazan 14, Amer 8, Quinto 7, Pinto 6, Hodge 4, Faundo 4, De Ocampo 3, Jackson 3, Salva 0.
Quarters: 26-28; 55-43; 68-66; 96-96 (Reg); 108-103 (OT).