THE Blackwater Elite assured themselves a spot in the top four of the Philippine Basketball Association Commissioner’s Cup heading into the quarterfinals after beating the Alaska Aces, 112-104, in their final game of the elimination round on Sunday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Safely perched on the number three spot heading into the game, the Elite made sure they would not finish lower than that by notching win number seven of 11 matches to create further distance from the middling pack.
The Elite kept themselves in the game before finding the leverage they needed down the stretch to pull away and get the win.
It was an early tussle between Alaska’s Chris Banchero and Blackwater’s Ray Parks Jr. as they tried to set the pace for their respective teams.
The first quarter was nip-and-tuck throughout with the count eventually settling at 32-27 after the first 12 minutes, with the Aces on top.
Blackwater got off to a strong start to begin the second frame, outscoring Alaska, 13-8, to tie the score at 40-all with seven minutes to go.
The Elite charge back continued for the rest of the period with the team seizing the upper hand, 56-55, at the break.
In the third quarter it was the imports who would carve the path for their teams early on.
Alaska’s Diamon Simpson and Blackwater’s Staphon Blair had their squads fighting to a 66-all score with just five minutes lapsing in the quarter.
The Elite then went on an 8-4 run in the next three minutes to open a 74-70 gap.
Alaska tried to claw its way back but Blackwater remained on top, 80-78, heading into the final frame.
The two teams slugged it out at the start of the fourth canto.
Blackwater held a 95-94 lead with five minutes to go, creating more separation, 102-96, with 3:42 left as Mac Belo and Roi Sumang found their mark.
Alaska countered back with five straight points care of Simon Enciso and Jeron Teng to make it 102-101 with three minutes remaining.
But the Elite would keep their head above water, 106-103, at the 1:57 mark.
A split by Sonny Thoss from the charity lane after pulled the Aces to within two points, 106-104.
Rabeh Al-Hussaini though hit a triple with a 1:15 to go to make it 109-104 for the Elite.
Mr. Sumang then extended their lead, 111-104 with 53 ticks left.
Alaska sued for time to set up a play.
It failed to score however, forcing it to foul Mr. Sumang with 31 seconds remaining.
Mr. Sumang split his free throws to make it 112-104, which turned out to be the final score.
Mr. Parks led the way for the Elite with a near triple-double of 25 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists.
Mr. Sumang had 18 points while Allein Maliksi had 15.
Mr. Blair had 14 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks.
For Alasķa (4-7) it was Mr. Simpson who top-scored with 24 points to go along with 16 rebounds and eight assists.
Mr. Banchero added 18 points and Mr. Thoss and Vic Manuel 15 each.
“It was not a perfect game and we had some lapses but the players stepped up when they had to and we are happy with the win,” said Blackwater coach Aris Dimaunahan following their win.
The Aces are not yet out of the running despite the loss as they could go into the quarters via a playoff.
As of this writing, they are tied with the Phoenix Pulse Fuel Masters for eighth place.
By Michael Angelo S. Murillo