MANILA, Philippines -- Alaska finally clinched the last automatic semifinal slot with a hard-earned 95-94 squeaker over Rain or Shine at the close of the KFC-PBA Philippine Cup elimination round Friday night at the Ynares Center in Antipolo City.
Two-time MVP Willie Miller scored the last 9 points of the Aces including a banked shot in the last 12 seconds that turned out to be the game-winner. He finished with 22 points.
Miller’s shot also helped Alaska snap their two-game slide.
Elasto Painters guard Sol Mercado, who fired a career-high 35 points, had the chance to steal the game but his drive in the final play was foiled by Larry Fonacier.
Alaska ended its elimination campaign with 13-5 win-loss mark, same with San Miguel Beer but got the No. 1 spot in the Final Four round as it swept the Beermen in the elims.
“Honestly, the whole game my heart was in my throat because there was a lot of pressure on us,” said Aces head coach Tim Cone who also drew 15 points each from LA Tenorio and Joe Devance.
“The last time we’re in this situation (automatic semis), we won the championship. It’s really a big advantage to be in the semis already,” he added.
The Aces have four chances to seal the semis slot but lost four of their last five games and were pressed to beat Rain or Shine last night to avoid the playoff spot for the No. 2 spot.
Giants in quarters
Purefoods Tender Juicy went straight to the best-of-five quarterfinal series with an 88-78 win over Sta. Lucia Realty.
James Yap scored a game-high 19 points while KG Canaleta added 17 for the winning team. Marc Pingris netted 11 points and 15 rebounds for the Giants, who ended their elimination round with 4 straight wins for a 12-6 win-loss card.
They tied Barangay Ginebra in the standing but clinched the No. 3 spot due to a better quotient. The Kings are No. 4 team while Talk ‘N Text (11-7) is No. 5.
“We wanted to finish 12-6 and it was within our goal but we did not reach the semis,” said Purefoods head coach Ryan Gregorio.
Joseph Yeo had a team-high 17 points for Sta. Lucia, which is relegated to the knockout wildcard stage and faces No.9 Rain or Shine. Marlou Aquino had 14 markers for the Realtors.