If you stop Zach Graham, you stop Air 21.
The Alaska Aces implemented that philosophy as they put an end to the Express’ slim chance of making it to the semifinal round of the PBA Governors’ Cup.
The Aces ran roughshod over the Express, 110-80, as Alaska coach Luigi Trillo and his troops shackled the high-scoring Graham and held him to his lowest output on Wednesday night at the SMART-Araneta Coliseum. With the win, the Aces have eliminated the Express from the race for a semis berth.
“We took them away from their strength, which is Graham. He’s coming off a 51-point performance, so there’s added respect there among those defending him,” said Trillo during the post-game interview.
“Cyrus (Baguio) played good defense on Zach, but it’s a collected team effort.”
Graham ended up scoring 25 points, which was his lowest output in the conference. He had his string of games with 30-plus points snapped after making just 8-of-27 field goals.
Baguio played his most productive game this conference, finishing with 24 points, including 4-for-5 shooting from beyond the arc. He also had three blocks, making his presence felt on both ends of the court.
Jason Forte led the Aces with 26 points, 12 rebounds and six assists.
The Aces finished their Governors’ Cup campaign with a 2-7 record, but they posted the biggest winning margin by any team in their final game. It was also Alaska’s biggest win since beating Barangay Ginebra, 102-72, in the 2005-06 Fiesta Conference.
Pending Air 21’s final game, Alaska could either end up dead last in the elimination round or ninth place at best.
The Aces’ previous worst finish in a conference was eighth place, which they posted in the 1992 All-Filipino, according to PBA head of stats Fidel Mangonon III.
Alaska posted leads of as high as 37 points, 93-56, on a three-pointer by Brandon Cablay early in the fourth period.
Alaska (110) – Forte 26, Baguio 24, Tenorio 19, Thoss 10, Cablay 9, Espinas 8, Baracael 4, Dela Cruz 4, Jazul 3, Eman 3, Thiele 0, Bugia 0, Gelig 0.
Air 21 (80) – Graham 25, Ritualo 11, Arboleda 9, Escobal 7, Faundo 6, Isip 6, Omolon 6, Sison 4, Menor 4, Espiritu 2, Bagatsing 0, Sena 0, Hubalde 0.
Quarters: 32-15, 56-32, 90-56, 110-80
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