Aces bounce back to tie up series

Playing with a sense of urgency, Alaska accomplished its immediate goal Friday night.

Coming through with key plays on both ends of the court, the resilient Aces held off the Talk ‘N Text Tropang Texters 104-99 to tie their semifinals series at two games apiece in the PBA Philippine Cup at the MOA Arena.

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Heady playmaker JVee Casio regained his scoring flair with a game-high 22 points, 12 coming in the second half, while rookie Calvin Abueva and Cyrus Baguio came up with pivotal baskets in the stretch to help Alaska fend off a late-charge by Talk ‘N Text.

Smarting from a 79-93 defeat in Game 3 last Wednesday, the Aces’ indomitable resolve–notably in the final half–clearly gave them an added lift to turn the series into a best-of-three affair, with Game 5 set this Sunday at 5 o’clock also at the Pasay-based venue.

Baguio, who escaped a suspension on his flagrant foul on Jayson Castro in Game 3 but was fined P30,000, contributed 18 points, including a dagger of a trey with 1:15 left, while Abueva redeemed himself with 15 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks.
Also providing added support for the Aces were veteran sniper Dondon Hontiveros (13 points) and Mac Baracael (12 markers and seven rebounds).

“It was a grind-out type of win,” stressed Alaska coach Luigi Trillo. “We know Talk ‘N Text is an explosive team. But we limited them to 18 points in the third quarter. Well, it’s not gonna be easy beating this team.”

After allowing TNT to make 34 of its 80 attempts from the field in Game 3, Alaska clamped down defensively, holding its rival to a mere 33-of-85 (38.8) output.

Jimmy Alapag came up with 17 points and five assists while Castro added 16 markers, seven boards and five dimes to lead four other teammates with at least 11 points, but the Texters ran out of steam in the crucial juncture.

After going back and forth in nearly 30 minutes of play, the Aces gained some headway with a 14-5 run to finish the third on top at 81-74.

Alaska continued to pour it on in the fourth, scoring six straight points capped by Baguio’s left-handed lay-up for a sizeable 87-74 cushion.

Talk ‘N Text, however, fought its way back and pulled within 92-94 off an Alapag triple, time down to just 2:17.

After fishing De Ocampo’s sixth and final foul off an offensive charge, Abueva restored the Aces lead to four with an easy lay-in but a Castro bucket kept the Texters within striking distance, pegging a 94-96 count with 1:28 left.

Getting a perfect feed from Baracael, Baguio drilled in a big triple then Casio - off a Kelly Williams foul - split his charities, stretching Alaska’s cushion at 100-94 with 29.8 ticks remaining.

TNT then muffed several attempts before Williams converted a lay-up, cutting their deficit at 96-100 but with only 6.1 seconds left.

Four straight made free throws by Hontiveros and Casio sandwiched an Alapag triple virtually sealed the deal, then Abueva blocked Castro’s last-gasp attempt as time ran out.

“Hindi kami pwedeng magpa-iwan (sa series),” stated Casio. “Kaya binigay na naming ang lahat. Sabi ni coach maging aggressive lang kami and put pressure on them. It’s a high-scoring game but we still focused on our defense.”

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