2013-2014 PBA Philippine Cup Roundup: January 20-21, 2014

The 2013-2014 PBA Philippine Cup opened its playoff hostilities with a knockout game this past Monday and two Game Ones last night. The a playoff for the final quarterfinal slot, the Alaska Aces edged out the Meralco Bolts in a physical encounter two nights ago even as Petron Blaze and San Mig Super Coffee each went up 1-0 in their respective best-of-three series.

This past Monday, Alaska scraped past Meralco, 94-91. Veterans Sonny Thoss and Dondon Hontiveros stepped up big time here, combining for 41 points as the Aces survived yet another knockout encounter to enter the quarterfinals. Thoss recorded 21 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal, and 1 block in a great show of force down low, while Hontiveros hit 2 triples on his way to 20 points, 4 boards, and 1 assist. Both guys will have to continue playing well, though, as Alaska will have to contend with top-seeded Ginebra in the next round.

Save for Cliff Hodge, who worked like hell (and got a bunch of bruises to show for it), Meralco’s frontline was pretty much kaput. Rabeh Al-Hussaini laid a big fat egg again, Don Allado and Danny Ildefonso scored a total of 4 points, and Reynel Hugnatan underwhelmed with 6 points and 7 rebounds. Meralco got sent packing, and the Bolts will have a lot of soul-searching to do before the next conference begins.

“Three-hit combo” is not usually a term one hears or reads in the context of basketball, but it’s what happened here when Gabby Espinas, elbowed, tripped, and clocked Cliff Hodge in the second quarter. He got a flagrant foul one, which I personally believe was too light. A three-hit combo? C’mon.

Cliff Hodge gets tagged with a Gabby Espinas haymaker.
(screencap from Sports 5)

In last night’s opening game, Petron Blaze beat Barako Bull, 101-88. Marcio Lassiter bucked jet lag and got down to work, hitting three triples on his way to 17 points. He shot two of those treys in a crucial fourth quarter stretch that helped the Boosters overhaul a 7-point deficit and put the competitive Barako Bull quintet out for good. Lassiter just returned from the States to attend his grandmother’s wake, but he hardly showed any rust, scoring 13 in that all-important payoff period. The Boosters are now a win away from clinching a semifinal berth.

Barako Bull did well in this game in terms of being energetic and outworking the Boosters on the glass, 49-43, but their shooting percentages fell in the second half after Petron tightened up its D. Overall, the Energy Cola shot just 40% from the field, with JC Intal, Rico Maierhofer, and Mark Macapagal — all starters — combining for 5/24 FG shooting. If they’re still harboring any hopes of advancing, then they need to catch fire in Game 2.

There’s hardly any other frontline in the Philippines as innately talented as the one Petron Blaze has. I mean, coach Gee Abanilla has last season’s MVP, Arwind Santos, and the league’s best center, June Mar Fajardo, at his disposal. Both guys paired up for 32 points, 18 boards, and 3 blocks in this game, anchoring the interior for Petron and ultimately helping them get a huge 1-0 lead in the best-of-three series.

In the closing match, San Mig Super Coffee overcame Talk N Text, 90-83. The Mixers continued to roll, utilizing suffocating defense to limit the Tropang Texters to just 36% FG shooting. They also outrebounded TNT, 55-45, and forced 15 errors from coach Norman Black’s crew. Not surprisingly, Gilas PF Marc Pingris led the fight for SMC, recording a sublime 10-point, 13 rebound, 2 block performance. The Mixers remained unbeaten since the new year and are arguably the most dangerous team at this point in the conference.

Jayson Castro pumped in 24 markers to lead all scorers in this game, but TNT got little else from the starting unit. Ranidel De Ocampo was the only other starter to score in double-digits with 11, while Ali Peek, Larry Fonacier, and newcomer KG Cañaleta combined for just 13 points total. Cañaleta, despite his impressive resume, visibly struggled here. It was clear he was still getting used to the plays of TNT and the rhythm/flow of their game. He shot 3/10 from the field and turned the ball over 2 times.

Outside of SMC’s big names — James Yap, Pingris, and Mark Barroca to name a few — several role players have really stepped up big time for coach Tim Cone. The tandem of Yancy De Ocampo and Rafi Reavis delivered in this one, combining for 15 rebounds and helping limit TNT’s bigs from being effective. The most impressive one, however, was PJ Simon, who continued his splendid shooting for the Mixers. SMC has won five straight as of now, and in all those games, Simon was the x-factor. He is averaging close to 19 points per game, while also shooting 55% from the floor, in the Mixers’ last five wins .

Game Recaps:
The Alaska Aces survived its second do-or-die match in as many nights, hacking out a 94-91 victory over the Meralco Bolts on Monday night at Mall of Asia Arena.

“It’s our first time this conference to win back-to-back,” said Alaska coach Luigi Trillo, as his team has battled through inconsistency all tournament long before finally breaking through at the right time.

The win gave the Aces the last ticket to the quarterfinals of the PLDT Home DSL Philippine cup, where they will face top seed Barangay Ginebra San Miguel. But Alaska couldn’t relax just yet, as they face another win-or-go-home encounter on Wednesday against the Gin Kings.

“We wanna cherish this opportunity,” said Trillo. “We’re gonna have to take a step back. We have one day to prepare. We’ll figure it out tomorrow.”

Trillo called the game a “war of attrition,” with the tight first half marred by an altercation between Alaska’s Gabby Espinas and Meralco’s Cliff Hodge that resulted in a flagrant foul on the Aces forward.

Alaska turned on the jets in the third period, leading by as much as 17 points before heading into the final quarter with a 70-60 spread.

But Meralco wasn’t about to go down without a fight. The Bolts whittled down the Alaska advantage behind Gary David, who had 16 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter.

David’s four-point play over JVee Casio with 58 seconds remaining put Meralco within a single points, 90-89, apart from drawing the sixth and final foul on the Aces point guard.

Sonny Thoss drove hard to the basket in the ensuing play and drew a foul from Reynel Hugnatan. But the Alaska center muffed both free throws, giving Meralco another shot to tie the game.

But David was forced into a tough shot by Alaska in the next play. Meralco sent Dondon Hontiveros to the line, and the Cebuano hotshot made both free throws with 8.7 seconds left.

Jared Dillinger raced up the court for a layup to cut Meralco’s deficit back to one point. Hontiveros found himself back at the line, once against sinking both charities with 4.5 seconds remaining.

Meralco, with no timeout remaining, inbounded the ball to Cliff Hodge, whose desperation shot from just inside halfcourt failed to hit iron to give the Aces the win.

“You commend Meralco, they didn’t give up,” said Trillo. “We needed to weather that storm of theirs.”

After a subpar performance the previous night against Barako Bull, Thoss bounced back to lead Alaska with 21 points. Hontiveros added 20 points on 8-of-9 free throw shooting.

Espinas and Cyrus Baguio finished with 16 points apiece, while Casio added 13 points and a team-high nine rebounds before fouling out.

Meralco, which missed the playoffs, drew 15 points and seven rebounds from point guard Paul Artadi. Hodge added 14 points and 10 rebounds, while Jared Dillinger had 12 and eight.

ALA 94 - Thoss 21, Hontiveros 20, Espinas 16, Baguio 16, Casio 13, Jazul 4, Eman 4, Dela Cruz 0, Ramos 0, Abueva 0
MER 91 - David 20, Artadi 15, Hodge 14, Dillinger 12, Salvacion 11, Wilson 9, Hugnatan 6, Ildefonso 2, Allado 2, Timberlake 0, Al-Hussaini 0
QS: 15-20, 42-39, 70-60, 94-91

Paul Artadi's hot shooting was all for naught.

Cyrus Baguio came up big in the clutch.

Despite not being known as a defensive-minded squad, Petron Blaze made the necessary stops as they turned back Barako Bull, 101-88, to take a headstart in their PLDT Home DSL Philippine Cup best-of-three quarterfinals series at the Mall of Asia Arena.

The Boosters shut down the Energy Colas late, holding them without a basket for a six minute stretch in the fourth period.

With their defense working for them, Petron scored 17 unanswered points, turning a 71-78 deficit into a sizable lead, 88-78, with exactly five minutes left.

Marcio Lassiter triggered the huge Petron run with back-to-back triples while Alex Cabagnot also did his part in nailing crucial baskets, including a trey at the 2:11 mark to put Barako Bull away, 99-83.

Six players finished in double-figures for the Boosters, led by Lassiter, who arrived on Tuesday morning but barely showed signs of jet lag.

He finished with 17 points, including three triples. Cabagnot and reigning Most Valuable Player Arwind Santos also had the same output.

June Mar Fajardo had another double-double performance, finishing with 15 points and 11 rebounds.

Chris Lutz added 14 markers and Chris Ross chipped in 10 in a balanced display of firepower by Petron, which came back from 12 points down in the first half.

“I just want to give a lot of credit to Barako Bull. They really showed up today,” Petron coach Gee Abanilla told InterAksyon.

“They’re very well-coached and they managed to get good games from a lot of people. They were hitting good shots in the first half, but we clamped down on defense in the second half. We just got lucky and shot the ball well in the second half.”

PET 101 – Lassiter 17, Cabagnot 17, Santos 17, Fajardo 15, Lutz 14, Ross 10, Tubid 6, Lanete 4, Taha 1, Duncil 0, Kramer 0.
BAR 88 – Miller 17, Buenafe 17, Intal 15, Pena 9, Miranda 9, Wilson 8, Jensen 5, Maierhofer 3, Pennisi 3, Macapagal 2, Lastimosa 0, Marcelo 0.
QS: 20-22, 42-49, 67-73, 101-88.

Dorian Peña tries to test June Mar Fajardo's defense.

Arwind Santos with the rim-rocker.

When it’s playoff time, expect San Mig Coffee and its big guns to bring their A-games.

Peter June Simon led four other San Mig Coffee players in double figures while frontliners Marc Pingris, Rafi Reavis and Yancy de Ocampo took care off the boards as the Mixers edged the Talk ‘N Text Tropang Texters anew, 90-83, and moved within a win of reaching yet another final four appearance in the PLDT Home DSL Philippine Cup Tuesday at the Mall of Asia Arena.

Simon played yet another explosive game, scattering 20 points, including 13 in the second half.

But it wasn’t just Simon playing well in this one, as the Mixers’ veterans played big roles in the win with heady play on both ends on the court.

Joe Devance, Mark Barroca, James Yap and Pingris all finished in double figures.

“I got veterans and they all kinda perk up at the end of the conference when the playoffs come,” said San Mig Coffee coach Tim Cone during the postgame interview.

“That’s what veterans do. They just kinda create a little more energy. They find their second wind. Guys like Ping (Marc Pingris), PJ, James (Yap) even Joe (Devance). Then Raffi(Reavis) and Yancy (De Ocampo). They’re playing very, very well.”

“We’re being led by our veterans because they know what the playoffs are all about. They know the bonuses that win in the playoffs. This is the time where you create your reputation. This is the time where you create your contracts later on,” he added.

Simon proved to be the stabilizer in San Mig Coffee’s offense.

With Talk ‘N Text threatening within five, 71-66, early in the fourth, Simon touched off San Mig Coffee’s 7-0 run counterattack with a triple at the 7:45 mark.

The Mixers were never seriously threatened the rest of the way.

While Simon presided on the team’s offense, it was the extra effort showed by San Mig Coffee in rebounding which also keyed the win.

Pingris grabbed 13 boards in top of 10 points. Reavis didn’t score a point but picked up nine rebounds, six of them on the offensive end.

Ian Sangalang and Simon had seven carmons each and De Ocampo had six.

SMC 90 – Simon 20, Devance 12, Barroca 11, Yap 11, Pingris 10, De Ocampo 9, Mallari 6, Sangalang 6, Melton 5, Reavis 0.
TNT 83 – Castro 24, Seigle 15, Alapag 12, De Ocampo 11, Canaleta 8, Fonacier 5, Williams 4, Carey 4, Aban 0, Peek 0, Reyes R. 0, Reyes J. 0.
QS: 15-13, 40-32, 69-60, 90-83.

Mark Barroca continues to play at a really high level for SMC.

Kelly Williams throws down the lob.

Source: Unless otherwise specified, game recaps were compressed and compiled from InterAKTV. (Writing credit to Rey Joble)

Images: Unless otherwise specified, images are from the PBA and Sports 5. (Photo credit to Paolo Papa & Paul Ryan Tan)

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