MANILA, Philippines -- (UPDATED) Jeron Teng conspired with import Olu Ashaolu to lift the Alaska Aces over the NorthPort Batang Pier, 87-85, on Wednesday afternoon at the Ynares Sports Arena for a winning start in the 2021 PBA Governors' Cup.
The Aces squandered a double-digit lead in the fourth quarter but did just enough down the stretch to escape with the win, and spoil former MVP Arwind Santos' debut with the Batang Pier.
Santos, acquired by NorthPort in a blockbuster trade with San Miguel just last month, scored 14 of his team-high 23 points in the fourth quarter to spark the Batang Pier's comeback, but they ran out of gas in the closing seconds.
"In any conference, you always want to start off on the right foot. So, we'll take any win we can," said Alaska head coach Jeff Cariaso, whose squad missed the playoffs in the Philippine Cup. "You can tell that there's still a lot of rust. So again, just happy that we're able to pull it off."
Ashaolu put up 20 points and 14 rebounds, and Teng had 19 points, four rebounds and three assists. Robbie Herndon added 13 points, including the go-ahead jumper over Santos with 30.1 seconds to go that paved the way for Alaska's victory.
The Aces were up 79-69 with 5:41 left after Ashaolu beat the buzzer for a three-pointer, but Santos nailed a three-pointer in the next NorthPort possession that triggered their comeback. Santos went on a personal 12-4 run that made it a one-possession game, 83-81, with 1:44 to go.
A Herndon free throw pushed the Alaska lead to three, 84-81, with 1:33 to go but Greg Slaughter scored four straight points -- including a putback of a missed Santos jumper -- to give NorthPort the late lead, 85-84, with 39 seconds to play.
Herndon came through in the clutch for Alaska, fading away from Santos for the go-ahead jumper that made it 86-85.
"Robbie has a knack of being able to score at the end of the shot clock and even at the end of the game. So you wanna put the ball in his hands," Cariaso said of the play. "Olu did a good job sealing that play. Abu (Tratter) did a good job screening and getting him open."
NorthPort still had a chance, but Robert Bolick misfired on a long three-pointer with 19 seconds to go, and the Aces were able to chop off 13 seconds from the clock before Bolick fouled Teng. He made one of two free throws, giving the Batang Pier one last chance, but Bolick again missed a potential game-winning three-pointer.
Santos had seven rebounds and four blocked shots in addition to his 23 points, while Slaughter finished with 18 points and 11 rebounds. Bolick struggled from the field, going just 2-of-14 for eight points, although he did have five rebounds and nine assists.
NorthPort's reinforcement, Cameron Forte, had 18 points and 15 rebounds in 32 minutes, but sat out the final 6:24 of the game.
The Batang Pier shot just 35% from the field.
ALASKA 87 – Ashaolu 20, Teng 19, Herndon 13, Taha 8, Ahanmisi 7, Tratter 6, Tolomia 6, DiGregorio 5, Racal 3, Brondial 0
NORTHPORT 85 – Santos 23, Forte 18, Slaughter 18, Malonzo 10, Bolick 8, Rike 5, Taha 2, Doliguez 1, Elorde 0, Balanza 0, Grey 0, Ferrer 0.
Quarter-scores: 19-18, 41-39, 68-60, 87-85.