MANILA -- Alaska blasted Burger King, 87-73, for its sixth straight win in the KFC-Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Philippine Cup Friday night at the Cuneta Astrodome.
The two-time MVP Willie Miller started the Aces’ onslaught in the first half while the reserves did a good job of protecting the lead, keeping Alaska unbeaten with a perfect 6-0 win-loss record.
Miller finished with a game-high 19 points, 15 of them coming in the first 24 minutes of the contest where Alaska seized the momentum.
“The guys really responded because I thought we will come out a little flat after our Sta. Lucia game,”’ said Aces head coach Tim Cone, whose last 6-0 with the franchise was in 1996, the year they won their third grand slam in the league.
“I love that Phil Jackson (Los Angeles Lakers coach) quote, ‘The team itself needs a team.’ They are doing their own, talking each every time out,” he added.
And Alaska played as one solid unit Friday to easily dispose the erratic Whoppers who fell to their fourth loss against a solitary victory.
Reynel Hugnatan led the Aces’ second unit attack with 16 points and 8 rebounds while Larry Fonacier, Jeffrey Criaso, rookie Mike Burtscher, John Ferriols and Mark Borboran combined for 21 points.
“We genuinely like each other, just like the 1996 team,” said Cariaso who was a member of the fabulous Alaska squad that swept the three titles.
“We have a family atmosphere in this team and when you are like that, good things happen,” he added.
With Miller scoring 13, the Aces took a 27-19 lead after the first period and extended it to 43-34 at halftime. They led by as much as 25 points, 83-58, midway in the fourth.
Ronjay Buenafe led the Whopper with 15 points while Richard Yee chipped in 13. Ronnie Matias and Beau Belga each had 10 markers for coach Yeng Guiao, whose 1-4 start was the franchise’s worst in the last 10 conferences.
Kings grab solo second
Barangay Ginebra took the solo second spot after beating Barako Bull, 94-86, despite missing the services of starting guard Jayjay Helterbrand, who had to sit out due to knee injury.
Cyrus Baguio paced the Kings with 22 points while Ronald Tubid contributed 17 as Ginebra improved its mark to 3-1 win-loss mark.
“We’re back [to having an] unhealthy team,” said Kings head coach Jong Uichico, who continued to miss the services of Mark Caguioa.
“We have to find ways on how to be competitive so that the injured players can come back soon. Mahirap ‘yung masyadong minutes ang ibinibigay mo sa players,” he added.
Johnny Abarrientos returned to action and contributed 4 rebounds and 6 assists before leaving the game due to a cut in his finger.
Leo Najorda led the Energy Boosters with 15 points. Jojo Duncil, Cris Dimaunahan and Alex Crisano each had 12 markers for coach Leo Isaac, whose team dropped to 2-3.
Gilas wins tune-up match
Smart-Gilas ended a three-game slump in its guest stint in the tournament with a 98-93 victory over Coca-Cola.
Chris Tiu scored 18 points while Andy Barroca chipped in 15 to lead the developmental team to victory.
Though the game was non bearing, Smart Gilas mentor Rajko Toroman said the win was important to boost the confidence of his players.
“It means a lot,” said Toroman who also drew 14 markers from Japeth Aguilar. “We’re playing much better than in our last three games and I think we can still improve as the tournament progresses.”
Dylan Ababou also netted 12 markers for Gilas while comebacking CJ Giles contributed 11.
Veteran center Dennis Espino led the Tigers with 23 points while Mark Macapagal, Larry Rodriguez and Norman Gonzales contributed 15, 14 and 13 markers respectively for coach Kenneth Duremdes.