By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
Senior Reporter

THE Alaska Aces kept their Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Governors’ Cup playoff hopes alive after carving a 106-99 victory over the Northport Batang Pier in Sunday league action at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Showing a steady fight throughout the match, the Aces were able to hold off a spirited challenge from the Batang Pier to improve to 3-6 in the tournament, still in the hunt for a spot in the next round.

The contest was nip-and-tuck from the opening tip as the teams battled to get early control.

When the opening quarter dust settled, Northport was slightly on top, 29-28.

The Batang Pier continued to hold sway to start the second frame on the lead of Christian Standhardinger.

But the Aces showed grit and determination, leveling the proceedings at 38-all midway.

Alaska then finished strong with contributions coming from different directions, outscoring Northport, 15-10, to hold a 53-48 advantage by the halftime break.

Rookie Abu Tratter jolted the Aces to a hot start in the third canto with Alaska opening things with a 10-2 run to build a double-digit lead, 63-50, with 8:27 to go.

Mr. Standhardinger and import Michael Qualls towed the Batang Pier to a rally but Alaska continued to keep a safe distance, 75-67, at the 2:52 mark.

The count stood at 83-76, and the Aces still on top, heading into final quarter.

Northport opened the fourth canto with more fire as it tried to make up for lost ground.

It came to within four points, 92-88, with five minutes left.

Back-to-back baskets by Mr. Tratter and Simon Enciso in the next minute and half gave Alaska more breathing space, 96-88.

The Aces were still ahead 101-92 with a minute and a half left in the contest.

Mr. Standhardinger pushed Northport to within six points, 101-95, with 54 ticks left from an and-one play off the sixth foul of Alaska import Frank House.

In the ensuing play following an Alaska timeout, the Batang Pier forced a turnover to send the ball back to Northport with 51 seconds remaining.

The Batang Pier sued for time to set up a play.

Mr. Qualls went for a triple but missed.

Luckily Mr. Standhardinger was in the paint to score on a putback to make it a 101-97 affair with 43 seconds to go.

Alaska called timeout anew after.

Mr. Tratter was fouled by Northport with 35 seconds left, splitting his charities to make it 102-97.

Mr. Standhardinger raced to their court after the rebound and scored once again to push his team to within three, 102-99, with 31 seconds to go.

Vic Manuel was then followed with 17 ticks remaining and score a deuce from the line to make it 104-99 for Alaska.

It was a hole that Northport was not able to get itself out from after as it eventually slumped to the defeat.

Messrs. House and Manuel led the Aces with 23 points apiece while combining for 21 rebounds.

Mr. Tratter had 17 and Jeron Teng added 13 points for Alaska, which played sans Chris Banchero who was traded to the Magnolia Hotshots Pambansang Manok last week.

For Northport (3-5), it was Mr. Standhardinger who showed the way with 37 points and 16 rebounds, followed by Mr. Qualls with 35 and 15.

The Batang Pier played their first game without top rookie Robert Bolick, who suffered an ACL injury in their last game.

“This is a game we always talked about, grinding it out to get the win. It’s a significant win because we were challenged all the way and we needed to make adjustments. The players really played well in responding and I think this will help us in our future games,” said Alaska coach Jeff Cariaso postgame.