Aces flatten Beermen, gain 3-0 lead
Joey Villar, Nelson Beltran (The Philippine Star) - January 22, 2016 - 9:00am

Game tomorrow (Philsports Arena)

5 p.m. – Alaska vs San Miguel


MANILA, Philippines – Vic Manuel sparked a crucial surge after drawing a flagrant foul to the jaw early in the fourth quarter and Alaska Milk played tough to the very end, drubbing San Miguel Beer, 82-75, for an insurmountable three-games-to-nil lead in their Smart Bro PBA Philippine Cup best-of-seven finals at the Quezon Convention Center in Lucena last night.

Manuel responded with an instant 11-point explosion after being knocked down to the floor on a swing by JayR Reyes, then RJ Jazul, Sonny Thoss and Jvee Casio took over in the crunch as the Aces sustained their mastery of the JuneMar Fajardo-less SMB side.

The Aces flattened the Beermen with an eight-to-nothing closing run by Jazul, Thoss and Casio and thus stepped on the verge of a first crown since their 2013 Commissioner’s Cup title run under coach Luigi Trillo.

Coach Alex Compton and his troops seek to avenge a 4-0 loss to the Beermen in the last Governors Cup, going for their own sweet four-game sweep in Game Four over at the Philsports Arena in Pasig tomorrow.

Fajardo will surely be at the venue as winner of the Best Player of the Conference award. The question is whether he’s ready to return to play when his team is on the brink of relinquishing the crown.

With the SMB second group making its presence felt, the Beermen put in their worthiest showing in the series only to once again crumble at endgame.

They never scored a single basket again after Alex Cabagnot converted a nice SMB inbound play to push the team up at 75-74 with 1:36 left to play.

Reyes’ exit on the flagrant infraction seemed to start the Beermen’s fall.

He was enjoying his best game in the season, having scored a personal tournament best of 13 points when he struck down Manuel with a wild swing with 9:32 left to play and the Beermen ahead, 60-57.

At the finish, Jazul seized the moment on back-to-back conversions on floaters as Alaska sprinted ahead at 78-75.

Shortly after, the Beermen yielded the game as Arwind Santos misfired a trey then gave an ill-advised foul on Sonny Thoss, sending the Alaska center to the line for free throws that sealed their win at 80-75 with 35 seconds to go.

Reyes went 2-of-2 from beyond the arc and 4-of-5 overall from the field as he matched his season-best of 10 points just in the second quarter.

Curiously, through the post-elims play, the 6-foot-7 third-string SMB center had made only two points. He was kept on the bench in Game One and played only 7:18 minutes in Game Two, going 0-of-2 from the field.

Ryan Arana, Chris Lutz and Bryan Heruela put in their share as the Beermen made a decisive attack in the second period to seize a 41-31 advantage at the turn.

The Beermen worked on a huge 21-point turnaround in the opening half, wiping out an early 11-point deficit at 5-16 then surging all the way to that 10-point halftime lead.

The scores:

ALASKA 82 – Manuel 17, Abueva 13, Thoss 12, Baguio 11, Banchero 7, Baclao 6, Jazul 6, Menk 5, Casio 4, Dela Rosa 1, Dela Cruz 0, Exciminiano 0, Hontiveros 0.

SAN MIGUEL 75 – Reyes 13, Tubid 10, Araña 9, Cabagnot 9, Santos 9, Espinas 8, Lassiter 8, Lutz 4, Ross 3, De Ocampo 2, Heruela 0. 

Quarterscores: 20-17, 31-41, 58-55, 82-75

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