By Michael Angelo S. Murillo, Senior Reporter
The Alaska Aces used a strong fourth-quarter push to outlast the Phoenix Super LPG Fuel Masters, 105-97, in their PBA Philippine Cup match on Thursday at the Angeles University Foundation Arena in Pampanga.
Found themselves in a nip-and-tuck affair with the Fuel Masters for much of the time, the Aces saw a chance to make a run in the fourth quarter and capitalized on it to go on and win and take their record in the ongoing Philippine Basketball Association tournament to five wins as opposed to three losses.
The loss, meanwhile, stopped a two-game winning streak for Phoenix (4-3).
The opening half of the contest was marked by runs and counter-runs.
Phoenix rode Calvin Abueva and its hot shooting from beyond the arc to speed to a 29-19 advantage in the first 12 minutes of the match.
But in the second quarter it was Alaska which would explode early, led by the hot hands of JVee Casio.
The Aces would outscore the Fuel Masters, 23-12, in the first six minutes of the frame to take their first lead, 42-41.
Phoenix, however, regained its footing and finished the quarter strong to build a 55-49 cushion at the break.
The pendulum pace of the game continued in the third canto.
The Fuel Masters went on a 7-3 run to stretch their lead to double digits, 62-52, by the 9:37 mark.
Then in the next two minutes Alaska unleashed a 9-0 blast to come within a point, 62-61.
Phoenix survived the onslaught, establishing a wider distance anew, 71-61, with four minutes left in the frame before settling with a 75-71 lead after three quarters.
The affair was tight to begin the payoff quarter as both teams would not budge and sought control.
The count stood at 81-80, with Alaska slightly ahead, with 8:55 to go.
Michael DiGregorio, however, started to heat up from three-point land to key an 8-0 run in the next minute and a half to help the Aces build an 89-80 advantage.
The Fuel Masters tried to regain some real estate after but the Aces kept their opponents’ push to a bare minimum.
Alaska’s lead ballooned to 15 points, 97-82, with 4:14 left on the clock.
Phoenix made a last-ditch effort to salvage the win behind Matthew Wright.
It got to trim its deficit to just six points, 103-97, with 37 seconds to go.
The Fuel Masters though would not go near beyond that as Alaska held on for the win.
Vic Manuel led the way for the Aces with 24 points, seven rebounds and three assists.
Mr. Digregorio had 21 points with Mr. Casio finishing with 13.
Phoenix, meanwhile, had Mr. Wright top-scoring with 27 points to go along with nine rebounds and five assists.
Mr. Abueva had 18 points and eight boards while Justin Chua finished with 15 markers.
Alaska next plays the Barangay Ginebra San Miguel Kings (4-2) on Nov. 1 while Phoenix returns to the court on Nov. 3 against the Blackwater Elite (2-3).