Alaska bucks Fajardo's career game, downs SMB to tighten top two race

By Ivan Saldajeno

QUEZON CITY--Alaska withstood a monster game from Junemar Fajardo and a late run by him and his San Miguel teammates to win, 103-97, in a pivotal PBA Philippine Cup match at the Smart Araneta Coliseum on Wednesday night.

A slam from Vic Manuel sparked the game-deciding 9-0 run that helped the Aces survive Fajardo's 43-point, 20-rebound game.

Alaska tried to pull away in the early goings of the second half, opening a 12-point cushion, 79-67, with 10:10 remaining in the fourth quarter.

But San Miguel began clawing back, cutting the lead to just three, 83-80, with 5:57 left.

Eric Menk momentarily extended the gap to five with 5:25 to go, but the Beermen responded with another 7-2 rally to tie the game, 87-all, with 3:42 left.

Four Aces free throws gave them the lead anew, 91-87, but another 7-2 run from the Beermen handed them the driver's seat, 94-93, with 1:22 to go.

Jvee Casio, however, found an open Manuel at close range and fed him for the go-ahead dunk with 1:11 remaining.

Arwind Santos missed a triple and the ensuing follow-up off a Brian Heruela offensive rebound at the other end, and Calvin Abueva sank two free throws to extend Alaska's lead to three, 97-94, with 49.2 seconds to go.

Santos missed another triple in the next Beermen play, and Casio drained two more from the stripe to open a 99-94 cushion with 33.1 seconds left.

Alex Cabagnot misfired a quick try from deep and Cyrus Baguio sank another couple of free throws to widen the lead to seven, 101-94, with 23.2 seconds remaining.

Cabagnot made up for his earlier miss by making a triple with 12.6 seconds left, but his teammates took almost eight seconds before finally fouling Baguio, who sealed the win with two more charities with 4.8 ticks to go.

Sonny Thoss led Alaska, which tied Rain Or Shine, a 97-87 winner over Meralco in earlier action, in second place at 8-2, with 18 points, five rebounds, and one steal.

Abueva, who was at the wrong end of an elbow from Ryan AraƱa right at the end of the first quarter which the referees adjudged as a flagrant foul penalty two and a late hard fall off a rebound, added a double-double of 17 markers and 11 caroms along with five assists, three steals, and a block.

Cabagnot backstopped Fajardo by contributing 19 points, three rebounds, five assists, and a steal for San Miguel, which ended its elimination round campaign at 9-2, just a half game ahead of Alaska and Rain Or Shine at the top of the standings.

A win by the Elasto Painters over the Barako Bull Energy can catapult them to the top of the table plus the first outright semifinal seat at the end of the preliminaries by virtue of a better quotient over the two.

The Aces can still finish first if they beat the NLEX Road Warriors and the E-Painters fall to the Energy.

The Beermen can stay at the pole if both the Elasto Painters and the Aces lose.

Box Scores:

Alaska 103-Thoss 18, Abueva 17, Banchero 17, Manuel 12, Baguio 10, Jazul 9, Menk 6, Casio 5, Baclao 2, Dela Cruz 2, Dela Rosa 2, Exciminiano 2, Eman 1, Hontiveros 0

San Miguel 97-Fajardo 43, Cabagnot 19, Santos 10, Lutz 8, Tubid 6, Espinas 5, Heruela 2, Omolon 2, Ross 2, Arana 0, De Ocampo 0, Lassiter 0, Reyes 0

Quarterscores: 16-19, 40-37, 74-64, 103-97

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