MANILA, Philippines - No matter what the Barako Bull Energy did on Sunday afternoon, June 15, at the Smart Araneta Coliseum, it just wasn't enough to earn them what would've been their 4th win in the 2014 PLDT Home Telpad PBA Governors' Cup.
Instead, the Alaska Aces rode out the endgame storm the Energy unleashed and clung by the tips of their fingers to a 90-87 victory, giving them a chance to even land one of the top 4 spots with a twice-to-beat edge heading into the playoffs.
"There are no miracles today," said a relieved Alex Compton, Alaska’s head coach, after the close call against Barako. "Boy, they almost made me a liar. That was scary. Credit to Barako, they did not give up until the very end," Compton added.
The game was, indeed, up in the air until the final buzzer as Barako nearly overturned a 13-point deficit in the final minute and 21 seconds.
After JVee Casio capped off 10-0 blast and buried back-to-back 3-point bombs to build an 88-75 wall between the Aces and Barako with 1:21 to play, the Energy lashed out and broke the wall down using a 12-2 run, ending on a Willie Miller trey to slice the lead to a precarious 90-87 with 11.9 ticks left.
The Aces froze in that crucial run, playing sloppy and allowing a triple from Mick Pennisi (14 points), a turnover which led to a Jeric Fortuna (13 points) fastbreak lay-up, an offensive rebound for Miller and the stick-back, and an Allen Durham post-up move.
However, the Aces' speed and awareness saved them in the end.
During a crucial inbound from the sideline on the other end of the court with 11.9 seconds on the clock, Alaska managed to use up half of the remaining time as they passed the ball around and escaped Barako's defenders trying to foul.
That sequence of passing saved the W for Alaska. Even as Henry Walker muffed two freebies in the end, 5.6 seconds was not enough for a Barako squad all out of timeouts to bring the ball back up the court and try for a decent shot.
Casio led all Aces with 20 points, including 4-of-7 triples, as Walker had 17 points and 8 rebounds.
Sonny Thoss and Calvin Abueva came up with 13 and 10 points, respectively.
For Barako, it was Durham who led the way with 17 points and 22 rebounds. Miller added 15 points as Barako ended the eliminations with a 3-6 slate.
"I think sa second half talagang ang pinaka-crucial diyan yung depensa namin," Compton said of his Aces who came roaring in the fourth and rallied past a 13-point deficit in the third. (I think in the second half what was crucial was our defense.)
"For the way that the guys on our team dug deep and brought out that energy on defense in the second half, I'm just really proud of them."
The Aces finished the elimination round on a strong note, 5-4, riding a 3-game win streak since their 51-point loss against Rain or Shine.
"I think the biggest thing right now is all of a sudden, after Rain or Shine whooped up us by 51 points, we are now huge Rain or Shine fans. I think we need them to win," Compton explained as they now await the winner of Monday night's Rain or Shine versus San Mig Coffee showdown to determine their final seeding.
"This conference has been a real adventure. Tell you what, if these guys continue to play with that kind of heart in the second half, win or lose, I'm gonna be proud of them."
Alaska: 90 - Casio 20, Walker 17, Thoss 13, Abueva 10, Espinas 9, Manuel 7, Jazul 5, Baguio 4, Hontiveros 3, Belasco 2, Dela Cruz 0.
Barako: 87 - Durham 17, Miller 15, Pennisi 14, Fortuna 13, Jensen 8, Miranda 8, Najorda 4, Marcelo 4, Custodio 4, Thiele 0, Lastimosa 0, Wilson 0, Isip 0.
Quarter scores: 18-22, 38-49, 64-64, 90-87.