Alaska coach Alex Compton said the Aces have no one but themselves to blame for their fourth-quarter meltdown.
The Aces were playing outstanding basketball for more than 3 quarters, erecting their biggest lead at 77-63 early in the final quarter.
But Meralco kept its composure, relying on Jared Dillinger’s outside sniping and import Arinze Onuaku’s post plays to pull off a 92-87 win, sending their Oppo-PBA Commissioner’s Cup semifinal series to a 1-1 tie Wednesday night.
“They played great. They got a bunch of guys like Onuaku had a better game, but obviously, (Dillinger) and (Chris) Newsome, in the 2nd half, they made plays, while our transition defense was poor and our rotation was late,” rued Compton after the game.
The wide-bodied Onuaku came away with 22 points and 14 rebounds, but more importantly, had 6 assists, most of which he got after kicking out to shooters like Dillinger and Newsome.
Compton noted that the Bolts can’t be taken lightly, even though the franchise has had little success at all in the playoffs during their first 6 years in the pro league.
“Going to the playoffs, we have a high respect for Meralco,” said the Alaska mentor.
“I don’t know if the fans or casual followers are aware of how good they are playing this conference, but I would say, they earned being tied for first (at the end of the eliminations),” he added.
The Bolts were the aggressors in Game 2, particularly in the 2nd half, despite committing 18 turnovers against the Aces’ pesky pressure defense.
Meralco outrebounded Alaska, 42-38, shot well from the field at 50 percent (35-of-70) and enjoyed a 16-6 advantage in 2nd chance points.
“We talked to our guys here and said they (Bolts) kinda like us. They won’t stop coming and that’s how it is,” observed Compton, whose team took the series-opener, 97-94.
“They executed down the stretch and they made the shots down the stretch.”
Game 3 of the best-of-5 semifinal series is set on Friday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum. – By Richard Dy
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