The Alaska Aces are heading to the Finals for the 3rd straight time after surviving a gritty Meralco Bolts squad, 76-70, in the rubber match of their best-of-5 semifinal series Wednesday night at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
After a dismal showing in Game 4, Calvin Abueva bounced back with aplomb finishing with 18 points, 8 rebounds and 3 assists as Alaska proved steadier down the stretch.
Chris Banchero also came up huge off the bench contributing 18 markers and dished out 4 assists while Rob Dozier put up 14 points in supporting role for Aces, who will face Rain or Shine in the Finals.
The Aces had to grind out the victory in the closest game of the series that served as fitting finale.
Alaska, which earned its 4th Finals trip in the last 5 conferences, is hoping for redemption after earning the ignominy of being the first team to squander a 3-0 series lead in professional basketball last conference.
Meanwhile, it was a sorry loss for Meralco, which drew 15 points and 18 rebounds from import Arinze Onuaku. Jared Dillinger and Baser Amer were the only locals who rose to the occasion with 18 and 12, respectively for the Bolts who were denied of what could have been a first ever Finals appearance.
The Finals will start at 7:00 pm on Friday, May 6, at the Smart Araneta-Coliseum. — By John Bryan Ulanday