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Aces force Game 7 in Finals against Beermen

By Ivan Saldajeno

Alaska bucked a slow start and walked away with an 87-76 win against San Miguel at the Smart Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City.

Hours after about six million people flocked the Quirino Grandstand for Pope Francis' mass, 14,579 PBA fans flocked to The Big Dome to witness the first of two chances of the Beermen to win their 20th PBA title only to see the Aces extend the series to a rubber match on Wednesday at the same venue.

But like the opener of the best-of-seven series, Alaska had to bounce back from a slow start and stave off a late San Miguel rally.

San Miguel raced to an 18-4 lead behind an efficient shooting.

But Dondon Hontiveros began catching fire as he helped Alaska unleash a 22-5 run later in the first half to take a 26-23 lead.

The Beermen stayed within reach and eventually tied the game, 31-all.

But the Aces made another 10-2 run to go up, 41-33, late in the second quarter before settling for a 42-36 cushion at halftime.

Alaska looked to pull away in the third as the team stretched its advantage to 14, 54-40, early in the period.

But San Miguel remained in the game and cut the lead to seven, 63-56, at the end of the quarter.

The Beermen continued to slowly chip the gap as they came to as close as six, 66-72, with 7:33 left in the game

The Aces, however, scored 11 unanswered points to lead by 17, 83-66, with 3:41 remaining.

San Miguel had one last stand as the team made a 10-0 run to trim the lead to seven, 83-76, with 1:29 left. The team appeared to get a stop as R.J. Jazul misfired a three from the corner.

But Jvee Casio grabbed the offensive rebound after a scramble for the loose ball. The Beermen defense, however, forced a jumpball.

Junemar Fajardo lost the ball after his team won the tip, and Casio found Sonny Thoss from the baseline for the dagger jumper.

Hontiveros led the Aces off the bench with 18 points, 14 coming in the first half. Thoss added 13 markers and nine rebounds.

Casio, who went scoreless in the last two games, finished with nine points, six rebounds, two assists, and a steal.

Arwind Santos had a game-high 22 points, six rebounds, and two blocks for the Beermen. Fajardo, who averaged 14.4 points a game in the first five outings, was limited to nine points on 2-of-7 shooting, although he grabbed 13 rebounds.

Box Scores:

Alaska 87-Hontiveros 18, Thoss 13, Manuel 12, Baguio 10, Casio 9, Exciminiano 8, Dela Cruz 6, Abueva 5, Jazul 4, Banchero 2, Eman 0, dela Rosa 0, Menk 0, Espinas 0

San Miguel 76-Santos 24, Lassiter 19, Fajardo 9, Cabagnot 8, Kramer 5, Lutz 4, Tubid 3, Omolon 2, Semerad 2, Ross 0, Pascual 0, Fortuna 0, Chua 0, Maierhofer 0

Quarterscores: 17-23, 42-36, 63-56, 87-76