ANTIPOLO -- Alaska completed a stirring turnaround from a nightmare start in the 2019 PBA Governors' Cup by blowing out NLEX, 106-90, in its final elimination round assignment Wednesday at the Ynares Center.
Six players, led by Franko House's 24 points, 8 rebounds and 5 assists, fueled the assault for the Aces, which officially snatched the seventh seed of the quarterfinals with the win. Kevin Racal and JVee Casio both pumped in 12, while Robbie Herndon and Vic Manuel tossed 10 each.
Tipped against the league leaders in a game that would determine how they'd be able to crack the playoffs, the Aces left nothing to chance and dominated right after shaking off a sluggish start. A 12-0 run to flip a 14-7 deficit would help Alaska maintain a sizeable lead -- which even grew to 22 at one point in the first half -- the rest of the way.
"I wanna give all the credit to the boys, everyone, every day at practice challenging themselves, challenging each other, practicing at a high level and then showcasing it in the game. Everything owed to them tonight," coach Jeff Cariaso said after the game.
"[T]his win tonight was really all the players just coming in and being ready. I challenged them to be playoff-ready this week at practice. The way we're practicing, the way we're engaged, the way we were focused, it was as if it was playoff time for us. That's how we needed to look at it or else we really wouldn't have a chance tonight."
The result of that approach popped out of the stat sheet, where Alaska put the clamps on an NLEX offense that stayed hot for most of the season-ending conference. The Aces held their counterparts to just 41.7 percent shooting -- a number which was compounded by some paltry shooting from deep (10-for-37, 27 percent).
Alaska also managed to keep Manny Harris (22 points on 8-for-25 shooting) and Kiefer Ravena (15 points, 6 assists but had 5 turnovers) in the win.
The victory helped Alaska avoid what would have been a playoff for the final seed against the Columbian Dyip, who are now eliminated from playoff contention. The Batang Pier, meanwhile, will take the eighth seed by virtue of losing to the Aces in their elimination round meeting.
"Obviously we all know about the start. One thing we said during that time was it's not how you start, it's how you finish. We're happy with the way we finished the eliminations, but we're not content yet," Cariaso said.
Alaska, which recovered from a dismal 0-5 start by winning five of its last six matches, will face the Meralco Bolts on Sunday on a twice-to-win disadvantage.
"We know we have a big feat against the no. 2 team. We have to be ready because whoever we play is going to be deserving of the no. 2 spot. Our level of play tonight will need to be a little bit higher for us to do something special in the quarters but, again, it's how we prepare and how we're ready for the game," he added.
Meanwhile, the Road Warriors will wind up with an 8-3 card and will face NorthPort in the quarterfinals. Poy Erram added 19 markers and 5 boards, while JR Quinahan threw in 17.
Alaska 106 - House 24, Casio 12, Racal 12, Tratter 12, Manuel 10, Herndon 10, Ahanmisi 8, Enciso 7, Ayaay 4, Brondial 4, Thoss 3, Galliguez 0.
NLEX 90 - Harris 22, Quinahan 17, Ravena 15, Ighalo 5, Soyud 4, Paniamogan 4, Miranda 2, Cruz 2, Alas 0, Fonacier 0.
Quarters: 33-23, 63-46, 81-65, 106-90.
Tonight's win also marked the first time Cariaso beat coach Yeng Guiao in his coaching career.
Alaska will enter the quarterfinals with the longest active win streak at four games.