The Alaska Aces are headed to the Philippine Cup playoffs. The Aces used second-period burst to pull ahead of the NLEX Road Warriors and hold on for an 88-80 win Friday to clinch the eighth and final playoff spot.
The Aces reached playoffs but will have the unenviable task of facing top seed Phoenix Pulse in the quarterfinals. The Fuel Masters enjoy a twice-to-beat advantage after finishing the elimination round at 9-2.
NLEX joins Meralco, Columbian, and Blackwater on the sidelines.
The Aces turned a tight two-point lead into a huge 44-25 bubble at halftime after outscoring the Road Warriors, 21-8 in the second period at Mall of Asia Arena.
Alaska extended its lead to 71-43 on a basket by Jeron Teng late in the third period.
The Road Warriors managed to make the game respectable in the final quarter after JR Quiñahan nailed a 3-pointer at the buzzer.
Veteran Sonny Thoss threw his weight against the NLEX frontcourt after firing 21 points on 10-of-14 shooting to lead the Aces in scoring. He also added five rebounds in 24 minutes of action.
Simon Enciso and Carl Bryan Cruz chipped in 16 points apiece, accounting for seven of Alaska's 11 3-point shots.
The explosive Fil-American guard also had six assists, three rebounds and a steal for good measure.
Kenneth Ighalo led the undermanned Road Warriors with 14 points, Quinahan added 13 while slotman JP Erram had 10 and 19 boards in a losing effort.
NLEX was without Larry Fonacier, Kris Porter and Kevin Alas.
The Road Warriors dominated the rebounding, 64-47. But their offense was simply out of sync for the entire game after making just 26-of-84 from the floor for only 30 percent.
The Phoenix-Alaska quarterfinal series will be the first playoff meeting between Calvin Abueva and the Aces.
Alaska made a living on NLEX's 22 turnovers, scoring 27 points.
Alaska 88 - Thoss 21, Enciso 16, Cruz 16, Casio 13, Banchero 4, Baclao 4, Ayaay 4, Racal 3, Exciminiano 3, Teng 2, Potts 2, Pascual 0.
NLEX 80 - Ighalo 16, Galanza 14, Quinahan 13, Erram 10, Paniamogan 8, Magat 7, Rios 5, Baguio 3, Paredes 2, Tiongson 2, Taulava 0, Soyud 0, Tallo 0, Lao 0.
Quarters: 23-17, 44-25, 73-50, 88-80.
April 7: Alaska vs. Phoenix, Game 1, at the Mall of Asia Arena.