The former league and finals Most Valuable Player Eric Menk rose to the occasion to help the Alaska Aces knock off the defending champions Tropang TNT, 99-81, in their do-or-die quarterfinal series Thursday night at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
After trailing by 0-1, Alaska bounced back huge in Game 2 before ousting the Tropa in Game 3 where they led from start to finish.
Menk, who was named the night’s best player, scored 10 points and hauled down 5 rebounds while Rob Dozier had a solid 20 points and 14 rebounds for the Aces who are now headed into the semifinals for the third straight time and fourth in last five conferences.
According to PBA Chief Statistician Fidel Mangonon, Alaska last made it into the Commisioner’s Cup semis in 2013 also with Rob Dozier as reinforcement where they eventually won the championship after sweeping Ginebra in a best-of-5 Finals series.
Calvin ‘The Beast’ Abueva sizzled anew with 18 markers and 6 rebounds, solidifying his case for the Best Player of the Conference plum.
Larry Fonacier fired 19 points with 5-of-7 from beyond the arc, while David Simon put on a usual double-double of 20 points and 13 boards for the Tropang TNT who fell short in defending their Commissioner’s Cup title.
Jayson Castro made just 6 points and 6 assists. As Tropang TNT bowed out, Abueva is now the only man left standing in the top 5 of the BPC race.
Fellow candidates after the elimination led by Ginebra’s Greg Slaughter, NLEX’s Sean Anthony and Terrence Romeo of the GlobalPort Batang Pier have also exited early from the Commisioner’s Cup.
The Aces will face the Meralco Bolts in a best-of-5 series starting Monday at the Big Dome. The other semis bracket will feature the San Miguel Beermen and the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters. – By John Bryan Ulanday