MANILA, Philippines - Purefoods Tender Juicy moved closer for a record-tying 5th All-Filipino crown after pulling off a heart-pounding 79-78 escape in Game 3 for a 3-0 lead in the best-of-7 championship series of the KFC-PBA Philippine Cup Sunday night at the Araneta Coliseum.
The Giants, like in Game 2, trailed most of the way Sunday night and stared at a 13-point deficit midway in the third. Their defense, however, brought them back in the game to carve out another come-from-behind win over the top seed Aces.
James Yap struggled all night but still led Purefoods with 14 points while Peter June Simon added 12 off the bench as the Giants need one more win to tie Crispa with the most number of All-Filipino crowns in league history.
"Once again, our defense held up," said head coach Ryan Gregorio, who drew solid contribution from almost everybody particularly from the second unit led by Simon and KG Canaleta.
"But as I've said before, there's no reason to be happy. It takes four wins to wrap up the series," he added.
Canaleta opened the final canto with a one-hand baseline slam and hit a three-pointer to push the Giants within 3, 66-69, after trailing 42-55 at 6:46 mark of the third quarter.
John Ferriols and Tony dela Cruz hit a jumper each to give Alaska a 73-66 cushion but Purefoods scored the next 7 points capped by Yap's jumper to tie the game at 73-all.
Willie Miller's beat the buzzer with a baseline jumper for a 77-74 spread for the Aces but Canaleta, who was inserted back in the game, buried a huge 3-pointer to knot the score again at 77-all with 3:05 remaining.
"That was the biggest shot of the game," said Gregorio of the triple by Canaleta, who almost turned into a goat after taking a hurried shot with Purefoods holding a 79-78 lead with 31.3 seconds left.
But the Aces did not get a clean look at the basket in their final 2 possessions as Joe Devance took a forced shot and Miller's drive was well contested by a phalanx of Giants defenders as the final buzzer sounded.
"I respect the game of Miller. It's always in the end you give the ball to your best player. But I told the players, as long as the shot is contested, they won't hear anything from me," said Gregorio.
Alaska now faces a situation that no team in league history has been able to do – erase a 3-0 lead in a best-of-7 series and win it.
"I'll tip my cap and sing Purefoods praises when this series is over," said Aces coach Tim Cone. "But it's not over yet."
Miller finished with 20 points, 8 rebounds and 5 assists but had 6 of the team's 20 turnovers.
Devance added 16 points and 10 rebounds for Alaska while Sonny Thoss and Dela Cruz contributed 12 and 10 markers respectively.
For the third straight game, Thoss was slowed down by early foul trouble, getting his third at the 4:06 mark of the second quarter. He fouled out at 3:43 mark of the fourth period.