THE Blackwater Elite stopped their losing skid yesterday, beating the Alaska Aces, 103-100, but not after having made to labor in the PBA Philippine Cup opening match at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Playing catch-up for much of the contest, the Elite turned to a collective effort to rally back and win their first game in three outings to pad their record to 5-4 and fortify their place for a quarterfinal spot in the season-opening conference of the Philippine Basketball Association.
Rookie Mac Belo, Roi Sumang and veteran Ronjay Buenafe stepped up to lead the charge for the Elite, which regained their footing after being rocked in their previous two games that stymied their progress in the ongoing tournament.
The Elite trailed the Aces, 28-22, at the end of the first period as the latter shot an impressive 61% from the field, making 11 of their 18 shots.
They, however, would step up their game in the second canto and narrow their deficit to 49-45 by halftime.
In the third period, Blackwater further raised the heat on Alaska, balking at a strong start by the Aces to race to a 31-22 scoring edge as the quarter progressed and seize the lead, 76-71, at the end of the third, with Mr. Buenafe waxing hot.
The Elite built on the gains they had in the third frame in the payoff period, with contributions coming from different directions, going on a 16-7 run in the first seven minutes of the final quarter to extend their lead, 92-78.
Alaska, the proud veteran crew that it is, was to make its move though. Behind JVee Casio, the Aces went on a 20-8 blast to cut the Blackwater Elite lead to just two points, 100-98, with 20 seconds left in the game.
Mr. Sumang would give his team some breathing room by splitting his free throws after an Alaska foul for a 101-98 lead.
Alaska narrowed things to 101-100 on a Calvin Abueva basket with 4.3 seconds remaining before Denok Miranda preserved the Blackwater win with two free throws.
Mr. Belo topscored for Blackwater with 21 points to go along with seven rebounds and two steals. Mr. Sumang had 19 markers while Mr. Buenafe finished with 16.
Alaska (4-4) was paced by Messrs. Casio and Abueva who had 23 points apiece with the latter also grabbing 14 boards.
“We really wanted this win heading into the playoffs. Hopefully we can build on this,” said Mr. Sumang, named player of the game after.
Next for the Elite are the Barangay Ginebra San Miguel Kings on Friday, Jan. 20, while the Aces take on the Mahindra Floodbuster on Sunday, Jan. 22.