AFTER going into overdrive in the elimination round, the Philippine Basketball Association Commissioner’s Cup quarterfinal phase is ready to go with the GlobalPort Batang Pier completing the cast.
Defeating the Alaska Aces, 107-106, in their knockout match last night, the Aces earned the eighth and final ticket in the playoffs which begin today.
But to do so, GlobalPort needed to get deep into its bag amid a tough challenge that Alaska posted.
The Aces started the contest with a 4-0 start which it used as platform to build a nine-point cushion, 16-7, in the first six minutes of the opening period.
They went on an 8-4 run after to build their biggest lead of 13 points, 24-11, before the Batang Pier went on a streak of their own to narrow their deficit at the end of the period, 26-20.
GlobalPort opened the second quarter with back-to-back triples care of Mike Cortez to level things, which proved to be ominous of the explosion it would fashion for the frame.
The Batang Pier then oustcored the Aces, 25-20, behind Terrence Romeo, import Justin Harper and Stanley Pringle to end on top at the halftime break, 51-46.
The Aces came out more spirited in the third period, slowly chipping away at Batang Pier’s lead with Calvin Abueva, Vic Manuel and Chris Banchero leading the way.
Their efforts were rewarded by the 4:08 mark of the canto when they levelled the affair at 65-all.
The two teams went back and forth thereafter before Alaska reinforcement Cory Jefferson went to work offensively to give his team a push in the end and reclaim the lead, 78-74.
In the payoff period, Alaska and GlobalPort jostled to establish momentum, fighting to an 82-all stalemate in the first few minutes of the frame.
Messrs. Abueva and Jefferson would tow the Aces to 97-92 lead with five minutes to go.
GlobalPort’s Harper and Romeo, however, conspired to score the next five points to tie the knot at 97 a minute later.
The Batang Pier went ahead 101-100 with two minutes remaining after a Romeo three-pointer but Alaska would overtake them anew with a Banchero looper moments later.
GlobalPort was once again on top, 103-102, with 30 seconds remaining on the clock after two crucial free throws from Mr. Pringle.
Needing a basket, Alaska went to Mr. Abueva who drove into the lane to score the go-ahead bucket with 20 ticks left.
But Mr. Romeo would answer back with another three-pointer to push his team up by two points, 106-104, with eight seconds remaining.
Mr. Abueva’s attempt to tie the score did not find the bottom of the net after which GlobalPort’s Harper split his free throws.
Alaska set up a three-point play but Simon Enciso failed to connect in his attempt. Ping Exciminiano secured the rebound and scored in a putback but it was not enough to put them over the hump.
Mr. Harper paced GlobalPort with 32 points and 17 rebounds while Mr. Romeo had 26 points, going 6-of-15 from beyond the arc.
Mr. Pringle was the third GlobalPort player in the 20-plus-point column with 21 to go along with six rebounds and five assists.
For Alaska it was Mr. Jefferson who was the lead man with 32 points and 16 rebounds followed by Mr. Abueva who finished with 31 points and 13 boards.
“I just focused on what we needed to do which is to win today. Good thing my shots went in especially down the stretch,” said Mr. Romeo, named player of the game after.
They now face top-seeded Barangay Ginebra San Miguel Kings where they need to overcome a twice-to-win disadvantage in the quarterfinals.
“We need to work on our closeouts. That has been our problem in this conference -- starting strong but could not sustain it and finish things. We need to address that against Ginebra,” said Mr. Romeo of their quarterfinal pairing with Barangay Ginebra which begins tomorrow.
Meanwhile, the Commissioner’s Cup quarterfinals begin today with the TNT KaTropa and Meralco Bolts getting their best-of-three encounter rolling at 4:15 p.m. at the Smart Araneta Coliseum while the Star Hotshots start theirs against the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters at 7 p.m.