Semis: SLR 81, Aces 74

On: 24 January 2009

PBA's 34th Season

It has often been said that the heart of a champion can never be underestimated.

Sta. Lucia overcome a poor start and a 16-point first quarter deficit with a defense-oriented second half that netted them an 81-74 victory against the Alaska Aces Friday night to extend the KFC-PBA Philipine Cup semifinal series to a crucial Game 6.

Joseph Yeo, who went scoreless in the middle quarters, regained his shooting touch in the fourth quarter to keep the defending champion Realtors in the game and his three-point shot with 2:12 remaining broke the backbone of the Aces and sealed the win.

"It's a nice win. Credit goes to the players. They didn't gave up even when things didn't look good," offered Sta. Lucia head coach Boyet Fernandez after his troops managed to live another day.

"My only concern at the moment is whether we could keep this is up. It's a mental thing so we'll focus on that tomorrow."

Game 6 of the best-of-seven series is set Sunday also at the Cuneta Astrodome. Game 7, if necessary, will be on Wednesday at the Araneta Coliseum.

Reigning MVP Kelly Williams finish with 14 although he continued to struggle offensively, going 4-of-16 from the floor. Dennis Espino (12 points, 15 rebounds) and Ryan Reyes (10 points, 10 rebounds) came up with double-double efforts for the Realtors, who are aiming to become the first repeat all-Pinoy champs in 24 years.

Their aspirations appeared headed for the grave as the Aces, who shot 63 percent in the opening quarter, built what looked-like a solid 32-16 advantage late in the period.

But even as they struggled with their shooting, the Realtors didn't let up on the defense. They hustled all evening, contesting every Alaska shot, dove and fought for every loose ball and didn't lose their poise.

The Realtors also held Alaska to a 6-of-18 shooting in the fourth quarter.

And with Nelbert Omolon, Espino and Reyes picking up the cudgels after Yeo went cold, Sta. Lucia slowly made its way back into the game and found itself trailing Alaska by just 41-44 at halftime.

The Realtors shot a woeful 32 percent (14-of-43) in the first half while the Aces made 54 percent of their shots (17-of-31).

Yeo led all scorers with 22 points including 4-of-8 from 3-point range.

Reyes, last year's top rookie, knocked in successive 3-pointers and Williams split his free throws to open the third quarter as the Realtors stormed to a seven-point lead.

After missing their first four attempts in the third and committing three consecutive turnovers, Alaska came up with seven straight points to regain the lead, 51-48.

During the entire third period, it was apparent that Sta. Lucia had seized the momentum.

L.A. Tenorio scored 17 points, Reynel Hugnatan had 13 and Sonny Thoss turned in 10 points and as many rebounds for the Aces.

But Willie Miller was a big disappointment, disappearing on a night when Alaska needed his best effort.

The two-time MVP managed just six points on a 3-of-12 shooting, going 2-of-9 in the second half.

Still the Aces appeared on target of closing the series when Hugnatan sank two free throws to keep Alaska in the lead, 72-71, with 3:54 left.

But Denok Miranada, who held Miller to two points in the fourth quarter, nailed a three to put the Realtors ahead and the Aces never recovered from there as they faltered the rest of the way.

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