SOME big games are coming up for Alaska and Meralco unwittingly helped the Aces in their preparations.
Alaska fully displayed its mettle in the tight endgame to hurdle Meralco 93-89 Sunday and stretch its winning streak to three in the PBA Commissioner's Cup at the Ynares center in Antipolo City.
Chris Banchero merely shook off an injured left hand to finish with 23 points and nine rebounds and, together with Simon Enciso, delivered the points which made the difference inside the last 95 seconds.
As a result, the Aces improved to a 4-2 win-loss record while dropping the Bolts to an even 3-3 slate.
"It was a game we have to have," said Banchero in a television interview after adding four assists and two steals and taking the lead from the foul-saddled Chris Daniels.
"We wanted to put some wins together and I think we're going in the right direction right now. We want to continue to play well," added the Fil-Italian guard.
"There's a lot of tough teams coming up, so they'd help us prepare, hopefully, for the playoffs," Banchero also said, referring to Alaska's next assignments in Phoenix, San Miguel Beer and defending champion Ginebra.
Banchero and Enciso already showed the much-needed poise, each coming up with a drive that kept Alaska ahead after Meralco closed to within 87-88.
Enciso's charity made it a 93-89 game and was practically enough to ice it with still 24 ticks left as Baser Amer and Gani Lawal missed their respective tries at the basket.
In only his second game of the season, Vic Manuel also played a big part with 17 points, on just nine shots, aside from six boards.
Daniels still finished the game and wound up with 12 points and seven rebounds, a far cry from his averages of 21.8 and 13.4. He did score on a jumper that made it an 84-80 count and stole the ball off Lawal that led to that Enciso freebie.
Lawal paced Meralco with gamehighs of 27 points and 21 rebounds, marking the sixth straight game he had at least a 20-20 game.
Still, those were simply not enough as Amer was the only backstop to Lawal with 11 points as the other Bolts visibly struggled.
Ironically, it was while Daniels was called for a fifth foul with still 8:30 left in the third period and riding the bench that Alaska pulled off its biggest run of the game, an 11-0 run from a 57-55 count.
Sonny Thoss, Jeron Teng, Banchero and Manuel conspired in that surge that gave the Aces their largest lead at 68-55 and helped them take a 71-66 lead into the final canto.
All through its struggles, Meralco was able to keep the game close but just couldn't get over the hump.
The Bolts were still within 42-44 at the half and kept the distance when Bong Quinto boomed in two triples and Nico Salva one during an exchange Reynel Hugnatan capped with four straight points that put them within 55-57.
Then, like in the first half and in some stretches for the remainder of the game, Meralco's guns would fall eerily silent. (NC)
Alaska 93 - Banchero 23, Manuel 17, Daniels 12, Teng 10, Pascual 7, Thoss 7, Enciso 5, Galliguez 5, Casio 3, Racal 2, Cruz 2.
Meralco 89 - Lawal 27, Amer 11, Salva 9, Quinto 9, Newsome 8, Caram 7, Hugnatan 4, Hodge 4, De Ocampo 3, Pinto 3, Canaleta 2, Jackson 2, Almazan 0.
Quarterscores: 18-19, 44-42, 71-66, 93-89