10 June 2015

Bolts 75, Aces 89

Bolts vs Aces
In a duel between two dogged teams, the one with something extra in its tank prevailed.

That’s what Alaska had when it finally wore down Meralco when it mattered most for an 89-75 win on 9 June 2015 for at least a share of second-running spot in the PBA Governors Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Romeo Travis notched 24 points and a PBA career-high 18 rebounds and stood at the forefront of the Aces’ fiery windup that took the wind out of the sail of a Bolts’ crew which grittily battled it out but could not match their foes in the stretch.

Alaska harassed Meralco into a 1-for-10 field shooting and three turnovers in the last eight minutes while leaning mostly on Travis’ six points during their decisive charge from a 71-70 count to carry home the wire-to-wire win.

As a result, Alaska notched its second straight victory and improved to a 6-2 win-loss record, moving it alongside San Miguel Beer behind 6-1 leader Barako Bull.

The Beermen are set to break out of that tie after they have played Talk ‘N Text later in the evening while the Energy could pad their lead if they prevail over Kia Wednesday, also at the Big Dome.

Meralco dropped to an even 4-4 slate and a tie with GlobalPort at fourth, notwithstanding the 28 points and 10 rebounds by Andre Emmett.

It was yet another bitter setback for the Bolts, who worked through their early struggles and came within a point for the first time at 30-31, but just couldn’t get over the hump over the tougher stance of the Aces, the only team Meralco has not beaten this season.

Alaska head coach Alex Compton could only give credit to his charges following the win, which sets them up for a tough stretch that will see them wind up the eliminations against Barako Bull, SMB and GlobalPort.

"Our guys are flying out there defensively," said Compton after his team held Alaska to just three points in the last eight minutes of the game.

"I think (Meralco) coach Norman (Black) has made his team one of the most hardworking teams in the PBA. I really don’t really recall any game that Meralco has been outworked. But our guys responded. They committed to help each other."

What makes the win more impressive was the fact Alaska played minus Cyrus Baguio, who was nursing an ankle sprain. Vic Manuel also dislocated his right pinkie and had to be taken out with still 8:05 to play.

Yet the Aces hung tough, with Tony dela Cruz doing a great defensive job on Emmett, who made only seven of 24 shots from the field, including 1-for-6 from beyond the arc.

"Tony came in and I couldn’t get him out," related Compton. "He just carried us defensively. That effort of Tony typified the effort of our team."

Dela Cruz did not score but JVee Casio and rookie Chris Banchero helped out offensively by combining for 21 points. Even Dondon Hontiveros and RJ Jazul delivered points during that final breakaway.

Foul-saddled Cliff Hodge chipped in 12 points and eight rebounds, Seiya Ando 11 points and Gary David 10. But only Hodge and Emmett accounted for the Bolts’ three measly points in the stretch.

Emmett, who went into the game averaging 34 points, did catch some fire in the third period for 10 points and got some help, mainly from David, Sean Anthony and Ando, in pulling Meralco back from a 46-57 deficit and to within 65-67. His three-point play and layup off his own steal moved the Bolts tantalizingly within 70-71, but that would prove to be Meralco’s last gasp.

Travis already had an eighth straight double-double secured with 10 points and 11 rebounds in the first 24 minutes of play, helping Alaska take a 42-35 lead at the turn.

The difference actually got as high as 40-31, when Manuel, Casio and Chris Exciminiano joined hands with Travis for a 9-1 surge that lifted the Aces from a one-point game.

In that stretch, Meralco played like the way it started the game, when it missed its first nine shots.
Emmett typified the Bolts’ early struggles when he went 2-for-11 from the field in the first half with his 12 points built around an 8-for-8 free throw shooting.

When David heated up and Ando boomed in his first two triple tries Meralco was able to trim what was once a 12-21 deficit to just 30-31.

Then Hodge got called for his third foul with still 4:10 left in the second period and that gave the Aces the opening to better control the boards that led to more transition plays.

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