ALASKA survived NLEX’s gritty stand and scored a 122-119 overtime victory last night to keep its quarterfinals target in sight in the PBA Philippine Cup at the Smart 5G-powered AUF Sports Arena in Angeles City.
Maverick Ahanmisi notched 25 points and 12 rebounds while Mike Digregorio and Jayvee Casio made their own imprint in the extension as the Aces finished the eliminations with their second straight win for a 7-4 slate overall.
Now at fourth, Alaska must await the outcome of the other matches before knowing whether it keeps the spot and its twice-to-beat advantage in the next round or relinquish it.
For the moment, coach Jeffrey Cariaso heaved a big sigh of relief after the game that had neither team leading by more than eight points before finishing with a total 20 deadlocks and 12 lead changes.
“It was very difficult and that was what we expected going into this game,” said Cariaso.
“We knew how hot NLEX was going to this game. Defending them would be tough. It’s just one of those games where you can only pull it off down the stretch and I’m happy with, again, the focus the guys had throughout the game. They were ready, they never let down.”
The loss cut short NLEX’s three-game winning roll and dropped it to a 4-6 slate.
Earlier, Calvin Abueva sparked a furious fourth quarter rally that pointed Phoenix Super LPG to a come-from-behind 100-95 win over tenacious Blackwater and a share of the lead.
Jason Perkins, Matthew Wright, Brian Heruela and Justin Chua also did their part, but it was clearly Abueva who showed the way for the Fuel Masters in their charge to a third straight win and seventh in 10 games overall that moved them alongside idle Ginebra and TNT.
The only chance the Road Warriors would have of advancing is if it wins over Terrafirma tomorrow and Rain or Shine loses both its last two games. That tie at 5-6 would give NLEX the last spot since it won over the Elasto Painters.
Kiefer Ravena valiantly tried to avoid such a hole for the Road Warriors with 30 points, 10 coming inside the last two minutes of regulation that even gave them a 108-106 lead.
But Casio scored on a quick drive and extension was forced when the two teams came up empty in their next thrusts.
Another win against Rain or Shine tomorrow, coupled with losses by the Kings and Tropang Giga in their own last games, would even give Phoenix the honor of being eliminations topnotcher.
Coach Topex Robinson was grateful his team never stopped grinding it out despite trailing by as many as 16 points in the third quarter against a Blackwater side that has already been eliminated from the quarterfinals race but still played as if its life depended on it.
“These games will only make us better, these games will only help make us grow.” said Robinson.
“Again, we’re a young team, marami pa kaming matututunan and we’re so grateful na nagkaroon kami ng ganitong experience against Blackwater.”
That unyielding character was best exemplified by Abueva, who finished with a near-triple double of 17 points, 13 rebounds, and eight assists that went well with Perkins’ 18 points and 12 rebounds.
Abueva highlighted his performance by scattering nine of his points in the final canto that powered the Fuel Masters’ rise from an eight-point deficit and into an 89-82 spread.
Perkins and Wright then applied the finishing touches that left the Elite with their seventh straight loss and a 2-8 mark overall.
Wright also finished with 17 points but shot just 5-of-15 from the field to finish way below his pre-game average of almost 25 points per game. Heruela helped make up for the difference with 15 points while Chua wound up with just seven points but hauled down 11 caroms and foiled five shots.
KG Canaleta’s 21 points and Mac Belo’s 17 points and eight rebounds paced Blackwater, which closes out its campaign against Magnolia also tomorrow.