Manuel, Alaska go through eye of the needle to reach playoffs
MANILA, Philippines – Talk about ending a month-long losing streak.
Alaska could not have picked a better time to halt its five-game skid as it punched the last quarterfinals ticket in the PBA Commissioner's Cup with a gritty 108-103 overtime win over Meralco on Friday, July 19.
A major difference maker for Alaska was Vic Manuel, who came off the bench and scored 23 points in just 24 minutes of action, including 15 combined in the 4th and extra periods.
"This was the last opportunity for us. In our last 3 games, there were times when it felt we'll advance to the playoffs but we just couldn't make it," Manuel said in a mix of Filipino and English.
After opening its campaign with an impressive 4-2 record, Alaska – which last won on June 9, incidentally against Meralco – fell in a slump and failed to clinch an outright seat in the playoffs as it lost its last 5 games in the elimination round.
It was given a chance to secure the No. 8 slot against Blackwater almost a week ago, but Alaska ran out of steam and was relegated to a playoff match against Meralco.
But this time, Alaska was not going to allow itself to fall short again, dragging Meralco to overtime and coming away with the victory.
"We're given another opportunity and we grabbed it. We're thankful for all the opportunities that came our way. We felt like we're already out but we made it out alive," Manuel said.
Alaska, though, only have much to celebrate as it heads into the quarterfinals with TNT and Best Import frontrunner Terrence Jones waiting.
TNT lost only once in the eliminations and boasts of a twice-to-beat advantage, while Jones has taken the league by storm with averages of 33.7 points, 16.1 rebounds, 7.7 assists, 3.1 blocks, and 1.5 steals.
"We need to prepare for him (Jones) – how we can stop or limit him. We know the quality of his play. He's like a beast, he dominates the league. We have a game plan ready for him," Manuel said.
"If we can limit him, we'll probably have a chance to win."
Alaska has a day to prepare before facing TNT at the Araneta Coliseum on Sunday, July 21. – Rappler.com