Aces clobber Texters to remain unscathed; Petron wins

Talk ‘N Text got off on the wrong foot and the Alaska Aces made the Tropang Texters pay a stiff price Friday night.

Doing everything right from the get-go, Alaska turned what was billed as a close fight into a rout, sauntering to a masterful 92-69 victory–its fifth straight–in the PBA Commissioners Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Reinforcement Robert Dozier continued to be a picture of efficiency with 23 points, 18 rebounds, five assists and two swats while high-flying Cyrus Baguio came through with 17 markers, including two awe-inspiring hang-time moves, as the red-hot Aces remained unscathed after five games.

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Three other players added 10 points apiece for the Aces, who led from start to finish behind their choking defense that threw the usual well-fluid Tropang Texters offensive machine off-balanced throughout.

Alaska’s defense was at its finest in the third quarter, completely making life miserable for Talk N’ Text and limiting the Tropang Texters to a measly five points on an atrocious 2-of-21 shooting from the field, while scoring 28 points–16 off Dozier and Baguio–for a whopping 73-44 cushion into the fourth.

“We did a good job playing both ends of the floor,” beamed Alaska coach Lugi Trillo. “We bring out the best in each other. We don’t expect to do this every time we go against TNT. It’s a good match-up and they (the Aces) like the match-up.”

Especially Baguio, who got some sort of payback after the Tropang Texters ousted the Aces in six games in the semifinals en route to the Philippine Cup title early this year.

“Medyo masakit talaga ‘yung pagkatalo namin sa kanila last conference kaya sobrang gigil talaga ako (na makabawi),” stated Baguio, who also had three boards and as many assists. “Talagang nagtutulungan kami as a team. We play as a unit both offensively and defensively.”

Alaska, which jumped to a quick 11-2 start and never let up, employed a suffocating defensive blanket on TNT, forcing the Texters to a sluggish 22-of-76 (28.9 percent) shooting overall.

Texters import Keith Benson tallied a game-best 27 points and 14 rebounds but hardly got enough support from the usually reliable TNT locals, with Kelly Williams, Ranidel de Ocampo, Jimmy Alapag and Larry Fonacier settling for just 15 combined points.

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Not only did the Texters drop their second straight game for a 2-3 mark, they also absorbed their most lopsided setback since being routed by Powerade 131-96 on November 27, 2011 in the 2011-20112 Phil Cup eliminations, according to resident statistician Fidel Mangonon.

This jarring setback, coming on the heels of a painful 82-90 defeat inflicted by defending champion SanMig Coffee last Sunday, was also coach Norman Black's worst defeat in the pro league since his former Sta. Lucia team lost to San Miguel Beer (now Petron Blaze) 73-106 in Game 4 of the 2001 Governors’ Cup Finals, added Mangonon.

The only highlight for TNT was Jayson Castro’s buzzer-beating triple from near the half-court line at the end of the second canto, cutting Alaska’s lead to just 45-39.

Then it was all Alaska from thereon. Tightening their defensive screws a notch higher, the Aces uncorked a staggering 20-3 charge–capped by a Dozier lay-up–in the third for a whopping 65-42 cushion.

The Aces’ lead stretched to as high as 29 points, the last pegged by a Dondon Hontiveros triple that made it 78-49, with less than 10 minutes to go in the fourth.

The surprising romp further gives Alaska added confidence heading to back-to-back big games, starting against SanMig Coffee this coming Wednesday and powerhouse Petron Blaze two days after.

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Earlier, Petron Blaze mustered enough buckets in the stretch to hold off struggling Air21, 60-53, in a low-scoring yet entertaining battle.

Import Renaldo Balkman, who stood tallest with a game-high 25 points, teamed up with forward Arwind Santos, with the two combining for 13 of the Boosters’ 19 markers in the fourth in staving off a girrty Express crew.

The win was the fourth straight for Petron, which improved to 4-1, while Air21 dropped its fourth consecutive game for a 1-4 mark, slipping into a tie with idle Barangay Ginebra in the cellar.

“It was a defensive game for both teams and the scores showed it,” noted Petron coach Olsen Racela. “At halftime, I told the guys, ‘I don’t care if we have a low-scoring game as long as we make stops on the defensive end.’”

The shortest import among the 10-team field at 6-foot-8, the ever-hustling Balkman also came up with 13 rebounds, two steals and a block while helping the Boosters outscored the Express 19-12 in the pivotal canto.

That gave Racela something to praise about, saying: “I just have to give it to our import. He is being the leader that he is. He stepped up, we gave it to him and he gave us that cushion in the end.”

Import Michael Dunigan posted his usual numbers of 15 points and a game-high 23 rebounds but the Express locals collectively struggled–notably gunner KG Cañaleta and ace point guard Mike Cortez who were held to a combined 15 points on a nightmarish 5-of-24 shooting–no thanks to the Boosters’ lockdown defense.

From a 41-all count after three quarters, Petron Blaze finally gained the needed separation at 57-48 off Santos’ jumper with 2:28 to go.

Air21pulled within 53-59 off Bonbon Custodio’s two made free throws with 49.9 ticks left but Petron wouldn’t be denied.

The highly-defensive game also found its place in the league’s history books. The Boosters’ 60-point output–the lowest winning score in franchise history–also ended up as the sixth all-time lowest winning score.

The Express’ 53-point production turned out to be the lowest score ever in a game in franchise history while matching the seventh all-time lowest output in the league.

The team’s combined score of 113 also became the fifth all-time lowest combined scores in a game.
The scores:
PETRON (60) – Balkman 25, Santos 11, Lassiter 7, Tubid 7, Miranda 6, Lanete 4, Fajardo 0, Yeo 0, Washington 0, Pena 0.

AIR21 (53) – Dunigan 15, Custodio 8, Canaleta 8, Cortez 7, Isip 6, Wilson 5, Omolon 2, Arboleda 2, Atkins 0, Sena 0, Baclao 0, Menor 0.
Quarterscores: 18-17, 34-24, 41-all, 60-53
ALASKA (92) – Dozier 23, Baguio 17, Abueva 10, Casio 10, Hontiveros 10, Ramos 9, Dela Cruz 5, Jazul 2, Eman 2, Espinas 2, Thoss 2, Reyes 0, Baracael 0.

TALK 'N TEXT (69) – Benson 27, Castro 11, Al-Hussaini 6, Reyes 6, Williams 5, Alapag 5, De Ocampo 4, Carey 4, Fonacier 1, Raymundo 0, Gamalinda 0, Dillinger 0, Aban 0.
Quarterscores: 22-13, 45-39, 73-44, 92-69


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