THE Alaska Aces padded their push for a top eight spot in the elimination round of the PBA Philippine Cup yesterday with a 107-91 victory over the Mahindra Floodbuster in a key match at the PhilSports Arena in Pasig City.
Needing to win to keep in step with the pack racing to avoid being lumped in the bottom four teams that will be eliminated at the end of the classification phase, the Aces delivered accordingly, banking on their depth and experience when pushed to the wall by the resilient Floodbuster.
Alaska started quick but was eventually caught by Mahindra as the opening canto progressed with the score knotted at 27-all at the end of the first period.
The Aces would go on a blitz in the second period, outscoring the Floodbuster, 26-15, to create some distance by halftime, 53-42.
Mahindra though was undeterred, bucking another slow start in the quarter to claw its way back and narrow its deficit to two points, 74-72, by end-third period.
With their opponents breathing on their necks, the Aces recoiled to go on a 15-7 run in the first six minutes of the payoff period to build further cushion.
Mahindra tried to rally back anew behind Alex Mallari and Russell Escoto but was kept at bay by Alaska.
Vic Manuel paced the Aces with 20 points and three rebounds while Calvin Abueva had 18 markers and 10 boards.
Mahindra, for its part, was led by Mr. Mallari with 23 points and eight assists. Mr. Escoto had 16 and Joseph Eriobu with 15 points.
The victory pushed Alaska to 5-4, joint second with five other teams, as of press time, while effectively eliminating Mahindra (2-8) in the race in the season-opening tournament of the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA).
“The veterans really bailed out us tonight. Mahindra was terrific but lucky enough we have players who took up the challenge and delivered,” said Alaska coach Alex Compton after the game.
Next for the Aces is a meeting with the Phoenix Petroleum Fuel Masters on Friday, Jan. 27, while the Floodbuster finish their Philippine Cup campaign against the NLEX Road Warriors on the same day.
GILAS POOL MEMBERS
Meanwhile, June Mar Fajardo of the San Miguel Beermen and Terrence Romeo of GlobalPort Batang Pier led the additions to the Gilas Pilipinas pool of players.
In an announcement made yesterday by the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) and the PBA, Gilas veterans Fajardo and Romeo were two of the add-ons from each of the competing PBA teams to the national team pool as agreed upon by the SBP and the local pro league.
The two were joined by Mr. Abueva from Alaska, Japeth Aguilar from Barangay Ginebra San Miguel Kings, Jayson Castro from TNT Ka Tropa, Paul Lee from Star Hotshots, Bradwyn Guinto from NLEX, Norbert Torres from Phoenix, LA Revilla from Mahindra, Raymond Almazan from Rain or Shine Elastopainters, Jonathan Grey From Meralco Bolts and Arthur Dela Cruz from Blackwater Elite.
Said players in turn join forces with Gilas cadet members now seeing action in the PBA, namely, Mac Belo (Blackwater), Matthew Wright (Phoenix), Jio Jalalon (Star), Kevin Ferrer (Barangay Ginebra), Von Pessumal (GlobalPort), Ed Daquioag (Meralco), Mike Tolomia (Rain or Shine), Carl Bryan Cruz (Alaska), Russell Escoto (Mahindra), Roger Pogoy (TNT), Arnold Van Opstal (San Miguel) and Fonzo Gotladera (NLEX).
First test for the new Gilas Pilipinas comes in April at the SEABA Championship.