MANILA, Philippines - Alaska pulled off a scary 91-88 win over Barangay Ginebra in Game 3 to take a commanding 3-0 lead in their best-of-7 semifinal series of the KFC-PBA Philippine Cup Sunday night at the Araneta Coliseum.
Reynel Hugnatan came up with a huge defensive rebound that helped the Aces to secure the victory and move to a win away of returning to the All-Filipino finals.
LA Tenorio and Tony dela Cruz each had 15 points for Alaska, which almost blew a 23-point lead in the final 8 minutes of the game as the Kings staged a furious rally led by Mark Caguioa.
Joe Devance and Willie Miller contributed 13 and 10 markers respectively for the Aces.
"We had everything going our way but we fell asleep, thinking the game was over," said Alaska head coach Tim Cone as his wards was comfortably ahead at 88-65 with 8:07 remaining in the game.
"We just stopped playing and luckily we made some defensive stops after losing our poise and composure in the end," he added.
Mark Borborang delivered the biggest lead for a Alaska with a jumper, 88-65, before the Kings took advantage of the Aces' sloppy defense and unloaded a 23-2 run capped by Caguioa's lay-up to move closer at 88-90 with 33.8 seconds remaining.
Alaska was 0-of-7 and had 7 turnovers in that stretch, including the last one committed by Tenorio who fumbled the ball. Ronald Tubid had the chance to tie the game but was fouled by Jaffrey Cariaso while attempting for a lay-up with 9.5 second left in the game.
Tubid, a 70-percent shooter from the foul line, succumbed to pressure and missed both free throws. Hugnatan, who was inserted back by Cone, secured the defensive board and was fouled by Tubid.
The 6'5 forward missed his first bonus but sank the second one to give the Aces a 91-88 with 7.7 seconds on the game clock.
Caguioa tried to send the game in overtime but his three-point attempt was way off the mark as the Kings fell to 0-3 hole. No team in PBA history has able to recover from that deficit.
Wit the victory, the Aces need one more victory to return to the finals. Alaska lost to Talk ‘N Text last Philippine Cup finals in seven games.
"There are only a few sweeps in the league and winning Game 4 (after 3-0 lead) is always difficult,' said Cone. "The good news now is it sets us up in the next game that we can't let our guards down."
Caguioa led the Kings with 20 points 9 rebounds and 6 steals. JC Intal, Sunday Salvacion and Jayjay Helterbrand each had 12 markers for Ginebra.
Beermen take 2-1 lead
San Miguel Beer, meanwhile, grabbed a 2-1 lead in their own semifinal series against Purefoods Tender Juicy with an 88-76 victory in Game 3.
Anthony Washington and Dondon Hontiveros each had 15 points for the Beermen, who took an early 24-12 lead in the first quarter and never relinquished the big lead.
Arwind Santos contributed 13 points and 13 rebounds while Jonas Villanueva and Mike Cortez each had 10 for San Miguel.
"The commitment to play defense was there unlike in the previous game," said Beermen head coach Siot Tanquingcen. "Hopefully hindi maging complacent ulit sa Game 4."
After taking the series opener, 99-83, the Beermen bowed to the Giants in the next game, 84-103 last Friday.
Nino Canaleta and James each had 14 points for Puregoods, which shot 2-of-23 from the three-point area.
"There's a glaring stat for tonight's game which was our inability to shoot from the three-point line. That's the story of the game," said Giants head coach Ryan Gregorio.