MANILA, Philippines - Alaska Milk made an incredible comeback from a 21-point deficit, holding Petron Blaze down to six points in the fourth quarter as the Aces shocked the Boosters, 79-71, to assure themselves of Top Six spot in the PBA Philippine Cup elimination round at the Smart Araneta Coliseum last night.
|Alaska's Jayvee Casio shoots one over Petron Blaze's June Mar Fajardo on Wednesday's PBA Philippine Cup. The Aces won over the Boosters, 79-71. Photo by Mark Cristino for ABS-CBNnews.com
Cyrus Baguio, Calvin Abueva, Jayvee Casio, Sonny Thoss and Dondon Hontiveros teamed up to give the Aces a fiery finish resulting in the epic come-from-behind victory that guaranteed the team of at least fifth place at the close of the elimination round.
Inside the Top Six, the Aces (8-6) figure in a best-of-three series in the quarterfinals.
The Boosters blew away their biggest spread of 63-42 in the third quarter and a 65-46 bubble at the start of the fourth period. They settled for a seventh place finish at 6-8.
Petron is likely to play sister team San Mig Coffee in the quarters with the Mixers enjoying a twice-to-beat advantage.
“I thought we’re just going through the motion but the guys didn’t want to give up,” said Alaska coach Luigi Trillo, crediting the victory to the never-say-die spirit shown by his players.
“We got injuries all around. Calvin has got a second-degree sprain. Jayvee had a fever going back from our Dipolog game (Saturday). But they just willed the game,” Trillo also said.
Earlier, KG Canaleta sizzled with a career-best 41 points and the whole Air21 team went full throttle in the final half as the Express ripped the Globalport Batang Pier, 113-92, to seize solo eighth place
The Express broke away with decisive runs in the third quarter, repeating over the Batang Pier and putting themselves in a good position to make the quarterfinals with a closing 5-9 win-loss mark in the elimination round.
Air21 secures the last slot in the post-elims play if Rain or Shine shoves Barako Bull aside in their game tomorrow at the MOA Arena in Pasay. The Energy Cola, however, force a playoff with the Express if they beat the Elasto Painters.
“Everybody got frustrated after our game against Ginebra. Everybody came to practice so determined the following day. And at least, we’ve done our part. Now we have to wait,” said Air21 coach Franz Pumaren.
Canaleta was the most determined, focused and devastating as they scored their fifth win in the all-Filipino tourney, matching their total number of wins in the whole season last year.
The seven-year league veteran fired away six three-pointers, eight twinners and seven charities in improving his previous career best of 32 that he made twice in 2006.
A five-time winner of the league’s slam dunk contest, the former UE Warrior executed an electrifying slam before sitting out the closing minute of the lopsided match.
“When I got him to our team, I was telling him I want him to prove himself. I believe he’s worthy to be considered among the top players of the league. His goal should be to be the Most Improved Player. He deserves it. He’s got talent,” said Pumaren.
“Coach Franz is really telling me that. And I’m so thankful he’s giving me much trust and confidence,” said Canaleta, the 2005 Draft sixth selection.
The 6-foot-3 forward scattered 21 right in the first half and added eight in the third quarter and 12 in the final canto for the biggest output by any player in the league since Gary David’s 42 in the Powerade-Petron game in Oct. 30 last year. He was averaging just 14.7 before this game.
James Sena added 18 points and five rebounds while Rob Reyes chipped in 16 boards and 12 markers for the Express who redeemed themselves from their 0-14 showing in the same tourney last year. It was the team’s maiden tourney in the league, playing under the banner of Shopinas.com.
Globalport is assured of at least a win in its first conference in the pros. The Batang Pier try to end the tourney on a winning note versus the San Mig Coffee Mixers tomorrow.
“I was wary of them that’s why we’re intense from the start. We didn’t want them to get bearing or momentum. It’s hard to play a team that’s already out of contention,” said Pumaren.
Rabeh Al-Hussaini scored 20 points to pace the Batang Pier who also drew double-digit outputs from Gary David (16), Vic Manuel (11) and Jondan Salvador (11).
Willie Miller put in just four on 2-of-8 field shooting.