Alaska Aces banked on hot-shooting RJ Jazul to escape with a thrilling 97-94 victory against the Meralco Bolts in the series opener of their 5-game semifinals match-up Monday night at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
With JVee Casio absent due to a bruised right knee injury, Jazul stepped up big time chipping in 18 points on 66% shooting with 2 dimes and 3 steals while it was just another day at the office for the Best Player of the Conference contender Calvin ‘The Beast’ Abueva as he scored 15 points and grabbed 6 rebounds.
Though Rob Dozier was just limited to 7 markers and 8 boards, Alaska’s scoring balance was on full display with two other Aces scoring in double figures. Cyrus Baguio chipped in 13 and Chris Banchero added 10 in another “We-not-me” effort.
The Meralco Bolts, who had a chance to send the game into extension off a Ryan Buenafe desperation trey at the buzzer, were led by Reynel Hugnatan’s 21 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists.
Arinze Onuaku was limited to just 11 points but dominated the paint with 18 rebounds while Cliff Hodge and Jared Dillinger contributed 14 and 12 points, respectively, for the Bolts who are gunning for a first ever Finals stint in franchise history.
Game 2 will still be at the Smart Araneta Coliseum on Wednesday. – By John Bryan Ulanday