MANILA, Philippines — Alaska stuck to their usual game plan, jumping the gun and doubling early on San Miguel Beer in Friday night’s semifinals Game Three at the Ynares Center in Antipolo.
Only this time, the Aces didn’t run out of gas. Neither did they miss the shots — regarded by head coach Alex Compton as looks they should be making.
After 48 minutes, the Aces finally broke through, snaring a win and keeping their conference campaign alive against the defending conference champions Beermen, , while sending the series to a 2-1 standing.
“Apparently in basketball, making shots matters. And we made some,” head coach Alex Compton said in jest, as if heaving a big sight of relief. “Today just kind of felt a little bit like our game.”
“We made a bunch of shots and we made a couple of bounces go our way. So it just felt like one of those days. I hope we have more of those days,” he added.
Vic Manuel freed himself from the shackles of San Miguel’s defensive mettle, reaching his scoring norm with 24 points. Limited to just under 16 points in the first two outings, the Aces’ bet as Best Player of the Conference played through a flu, registered a 12-for-23 shooting clip to go with six rebounds and two assists off the bench.
“Siguro ‘yung execution lang naman sa offense namin. Kasi sa defense, maganda naman ‘yung pinakita naming,” Manuel said when asked what went right for him and the Aces this time.
“Talagang nag practice kami nung nakaraan. Eh ayaw ko naming masayang ‘yung mga pinaghirapan naming kaya all out kami ngayon,” he continued.
Manuel’s scoring effort was bolstered by Diamon Simpson’s 21 and JVee Casio’s 15.
The Aces also drew production from Noy Baclao and Kevin Racal, who combined for 17 points. The Alaska bench accounted for 71 points, a far cry to that of San Miguel’s 32.
“I thought everybody contributed at a time when — obviously — we’re still down,” Compton noted. “I tell you what, guys. I love my guys, they down give up.”
Beermen import Renaldo Balkman led the way with 28 points, but he was kept on the bench throughout the final period. June Mar Fajardo had 18 as Christian Standhardinger chimed in 10 more, but that’s all the double-digit production the three-peat seeking squad got in the tussle.
San Miguel tried to cut Alaska’s lead down to just three in the third, but a tough shot and a booming triple by Casio sparked another Aces run that saw their lead sweel to 94-77 entering the payoff period.
The Aces, who have been notoriously struggling in the second half in the past two meetings, essentially gave the Beermen — known for scoring beyond a hundred points in a game — a dose of their own medicine.
The victory marks the first time the Alaska won a do-or-die game in the conference playoffs in two seasons. The last time they staved off elimination was in Game Five of their semis series against the Meralco Bolts, also in the Commissioner’s Cup. Alaska went on to advance into the Finals that year.
San Miguel, which can close the series out on Sunday at the Big Dome, absorbed its worst loss in the playoffs since getting kayoed by crowd darlings Barangay Ginebra in the third conference’s semifinals also in 2016.
The two teams duke it out anew at 6:30 p.m.