The Alaska Aces bowed to the Phoenix Petroleum Fuel Masters, 86-94, in a defense-oriented game in the 2017 Philippine Basketball Association Commissioner’s Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum, Friday, April 21.
The Fuel Master got an unexpected lift from their import Jameel McKay who finished with 42 points to lift Phoenix past the Aces. McKay ignited a strong Phoenix start in the fourth period. He jammed a rim-rattling dunk to cap a 12-4 explosion which hiked the Alaska deficit to 12 points, 66-78, with 5:50 to go in the game.
The Aces were not about to give up as they continued to nip at the heels of the Fuel Masters. Cory Jefferson drained a three-pointer followed by another three-pointer by Jvee Casio to cut the Alaska deficit to just six points, 84-90.
But Phoenix guard RJ Jazul scored on a pressure packed field goal and then converted two more free throws to preserve the Phoenix victory.
With the loss the Aces (4 wins, 2 losses) dropped into a tie at fifth place with the Star Hotshots (4-2) and the Rain Or Shine Elasto Painters (4-2). Leading the standings are the unbeaten San Miguel Beermen (4-0), the Meralco Bolts (6-1), TNT KaTropa (4-1) and Barangay Ginebra (3-1).
Bringing up the rear are Phoenix (3-4), the GlobalPort Batang Pier (1-4), the Blackwater Elite (1-5), the Mahindra Floodbuster (1-6) and the NLEX Road Warriors (0-7).
The Aces missed the services of Calvin Abueva, who was injured during Gilas practices, as well as Chris Banchero, Vic Manuel and Noy Baclao. JC Intal and Chico Lanete of Phoenix also missed the game.
Jefferson, who was contained by the swarming Phoenix defense early in the game, stepped up late in the match to finish with 31 points. But Jvee Casio, with 14 points, was the only other Ace with double-digit scoring.
Jefferson was off to a strong scoring start. He jammed the basketball through the hoop and then drained back-to-back jumpshots to tie the count at 10-all with 6:20 to go in the first period.
Jefferson was also active at the defensive end. He stood his ground and forced Phoenix big man Michael Miranda into a charging foul with 3:36 to go in the first.
The Fuel Masters defense then swarmed all over Jefferson to shut down his production limiting him to just seven points the entire first half. Phoenix then went to McKay at almost every opportunity on offense in the first. McKay eventually tallied 17 first-quarter points as the Aces fell behind, 19-25, after the first period.
Casio took on the scoring chores early in the second period. He drilled a three-pointer and converted a layup which sandwiched a turnaround jumper by Sonny Thoss to trigger a 7-0 Alaska run as the Aces trailed by just a point, 31-32, with 5:57 left to play in the half.
Casio was not done for the period just yet. He drilled another three-pointer but the Fuel Masters countered with a pair of field goals by McKay and a three-pointer by Cyrus Baguio as the Aces trailed by six points, 36-42, at the half.
McKay virtually carried the Fuel Masters on his shoulders in the first half as he finished with 24 points and 17 rebounds at halftime.
Thoss asserted his height and heft early in the third period. He converted a pair of field goals from inside the paint after a jumper by Kevin Racal to tie the count at 42-all at the start of the third.
McKay and Matthew Wright then ignited a 14-5 explosion by Phoenix. Wright drilled a three-pointer followed by a jumpshot as the Aces trailed by nine points, 47-56, with 5:52 to go in the third.
Jefferson jammed the ball through the hoop, converted a pair of free throws then drained a triple to ignite a 15-10 run as the Aces trailed by just four points, 62-66, after the third period.
ALASKA ACES 86 – Cory Jefferson 31, Jvee Casio 14, Sonny Thoss 8, Ping Exciminiano 6, Kevin Racal 6, JP Mendoza 6, Simon Enciso 5, Carl Bryan Cruz 3, Tony Dela Cruz 3, Dondon Hontiveros 2, Yutien Andrada 2, Jake Pascual 0.
PHOENIX PETROLEUM FUEL MASTERS 94 – Jameel McKay 42, Cyrus Baguio 12, RJ Jazul 10, Matthew Wright 7, Mark Borboran 7, Doug Kramer 6, Gelo Alolino 5, Michael Miranda 5, Norbert Torres 0, Karl Dehesa 0.