26 April 2016

Bolts 94, Aces 97

Anjo Caram
Alaska Milk beat out Meralco in a duel of spurts, coming through with a key run at the start of the fourth and playing steadily to the finish in a 97-94 victory in Game One of their Oppo PBA Commissioner’s Cup best-of-five semifinals at the Smart Araneta Coliseum last 25 April.

The Aces overhauled a nine-point deficit early in the final period and refused to crumble in a gripping endgame battle to draw first blood in the race-to-four-games series.

In chase of a third straight finals, Alaska guns for the pivotal 2-0 lead versus Meralco in the continuation of their semis faceoff Wednesday also at the Big Dome.

Meralco, which enjoyed a double-digit spread in the third, wavered in the final canto and eventually yielded the game on a crucial error by Cliff Hodge with time down to 5.1 seconds and a missed trey by Ronjay Buenafe at the buzzer.

RJ Jazul, stepping up big time in the absence of Jvee Casio, came through with another solid game and paced the Aces with 18 points that went with three steals and two assists against two turnovers.

He had a crucial seven-point binge in their rally from 73-82 count and a big play down the stretch leading to an Alaska loose ball recovery and two free throws by Cyrus Baguio to make it 97-94 with 9.6 ticks to go.

"He's great, he’s a character guy, he’s tough and committed to the team," said Alaska coach Alex Compton of Jazul.

Rob Dozier, with early fouls, struggled for only seven points and eight rebounds, but Baguio, Calvin Abueva and Chris Banchero were among locals who picked up the slack.

Abueva sizzled with 15 points, six rebounds, three assists and two steals before being helped to the bench with a sore left foot with 5.1 ticks to go.

The Bolts failed to capitalize on Dozier’s early foul-trouble situation and went down with the sorry loss in the game where Arinze Onuaku delivered 18 boards and 11 markers.

Onuaku and the other Meralco frontliners battered Alaska badly at the paint, 32-16, in taking the half at 48-43.

The Meralco import asserted himself early, collecting nine points and 10 rebounds, and getting Dozier into foul-trouble situation in the opening half.

A three-point play by Hodge and a short stab by Onuaku to start the second half opened a double-digit spread at 53-43. But Abueva, Ping Exciminiano and Jazul answered with a 13-1 salvo as the Aces quickly raced ahead at 56-54.

The Aces themselves stopped their momentum as they failed to convert on a three-on-one attack then Dozier picked up a fourth foul on an offensive foul with 6:46 left in the third.

Jared Dillinger drained a 10-footer from elbow spot shortly before the buzzer, capping a 9-1 windup that gave the Bolts a 79-71 lead going into the payoff period.
But Alaska had the last laugh in the end.

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