Jay R. Gotera
MANILA – The cellar-dweller also-ran Alaska Aces poured out all their frustrations in their last game, drubbing the Air21 Express, 110-80, Wednesday night in the 2012 PBA Governors Cup at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
In the nightcap, the Talk N Text Tropang Texters trampled on the B-Meg Llamados, 89-72, to jump into a tie for second to third place with the Llamados, both with a 5-3 win-loss mark. It was the Texters’ fourth straight win after a 1-3 start in the tournament.
Win the win, the Aces snuffed out the Express’ last hope of squeaking into the six-team semifinal round. The Aces finished their Governors’ Cup campaign with a 2-7 record, dead last in the standings.
They consoled themselves, however, with the league record of posting the biggest winning margin by any team in their final game. Alaska’s 30-point winning margin was also their biggest since beating Barangay Ginebra, 102-72, in the 2005-06 Fiesta Conference.
The Express suffered their sixth loss in eight games and could wind up in a tie with Alaska at the bottom if they lose their last remaining game.
The key to Alaska’s victory was the defense they employed on Zach Graham, the Air21 workhorse of an import who averages more than 30 points per game and was coming off a 51-point explosion in their previous game.
On Wednesday night, he was limited to 25 points on 8-of-27 shooting, his lowest output in the conference, as he was effectively shackled by the defense put up by Cyrus Baguio.
Baguio played his best game in the conference, finishing with 24 points, including 4-of-5 from beyond the arc. He also had three blocks as he made his presence felt on both ends of the court.
Jason Forte led the Aces with 26 points, 12 rebounds and six assists.
Alaska posted leads of as high as 37 points, 93-56, on a three-pointer by Brandon Cablay early in the fourth period.
The win was a huge relief for Alaska head coach Luigi Trillo who earlier vowed to end the season with a win.
Wednesday night’s victory boosted the morale of an Alaska team that has struggled in the first year of the post-Tim Cone era, losing six straight games in the tourney.
In contrast, the loss was a death blow to the Express who was eyeing a second straight win that would have enhanced their chances of at least playing off for a top six finish and a slot in the next round.
Before Wednesday’s game, the Express were ebullient as they just came from a rousing 128-121 win over the Powerade Tigers last Friday.