Alaska Milk fought with grit and guts, and claimed the first berth in the PBA Commissioner's Cup Final Four with an 89-78 drubbing of Magnolia Pambansang ManokTuesday night at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The Aces put together tough effort on both ends and delivered the knockout blow on the Hotshots in holding them scoreless in the last three minutes and 29 seconds of the game.
Alaska narrowly lost a 16-point lead at the start of the fourth but applied the brakes on Magnolia's charge in the crunch to pull off the victory that sent the Aces to their first semifinals in six conferences.
"I missed the semis. There's usually a good relationship between the semis and Alaska. But I don't know this year," said Alaska coach Alex Compton shortly after the game.
"Obviously, I didn't want to play them Thursday. You don't want to be there. Getting this win, nakahinga ako ng malalim," Compton also said.
Vic Manuel, the leading BPC contender, delivered an 11th straight 20-point game with 22 while Diamon Simpson and Chris Banchero came through with their own clutch games as the Aces advanced to the semifinals versus the winner of the San Miguel Beer-TNT KaTropa quarterfinal matchup.
San Miguel goes for the clincher in Game Two Wednesday, also at the Big Dome.
Sonny Thoss and Kevin Racal were two other Alaska players that came up with double-digit outputs as the Aces foiled the Hotshots bid to force a rubber.
Magnolia failed to advance to the semis for the first time under coach Chito Victolero.
The Aces pummeled the Hotshots, 32-19, in the third period to stretch a three-point halftime lead to 16, 78-62, going into the payoff quarter.
Manuel, with eight points, led seven Aces that put together 32 markers in their third-quarter rampage.
But the Hotshots had their own decisive onslaught to come threateningly close at 78-82 entering the homestretch.
But then that's where the Aces clamped down on defense the best.
Interestingly, the two teams both hit at a 51.3-percent clip as Alaska led 46-43 at the half.(SB)
Alaska 89 - Manuel 22, Banchero 14, Simpson 13, Thoss 11, Racal 10, Exciminiano 7, Enciso 4, Cruz 3, Casio 2, Teng 2, Baclao 1.
Magnolia 78 - Chism 20, Sangalang 14, Barroca 9, Lee 8, Jalalon 8, Ramos 6, Simon 6, Dela Rosa 5, Brondial 2, Reavis 0, Melton 0, Herndon 0.
Quarters: 26-21, 46-43, 78-62, 89-78.