PBA: Alaska outlasts Beermen, overcomes Fajardo's 43 points

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — Alaska Aces head coach Alex Compton admitted he still hasn't figured out a way to hold off reigning back-to-back MVP June Mar Fajardo.

Fajardo has always made life miserable for the Aces, especially in the Philippine Cup and Governors' Cup finals of the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) last season which the San Miguel Beer both ruled.

As expected, the 6-10 behemoth battered the Aces on all fronts on his way to career-high 43 points and 20 rebounds on Wednesday night (December 16).

But it hardly mattered, at least after Wednesday's tussle.

After all, the Aces had the final say as they outlasted the Beermen, 103-97, in the Smart Bro-PBA Philippine Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Alaska, as it turned out, played as though everything was at stake in this contest. The team's fate hinged on the results of this game against their fierce rivals.

The Aces are vying for the top two spots, which entail an outright semifinals berth. And the pulsating victory put them in a prime position of clinching one.

Right now, Alaska and Rain or Shine Elasto Painters are in a log jam at second spot with identical 8-2 win-loss records. San Miguel Beer is atop the heap with nine wins in 11 outings in the elimination round.

To clinch at least the second spot, the rugged crew of Compton has to go through a dangerous Barako Bull Energy on December 19.

"Hindi namin pwede i-give up itong last game namin kasi hinahabol namin yung top two," said Alaska banger Calvin Abueva.

Abueva, who finished with 17 points, 11 rebounds, and five assists, made the difference in the waning minutes.

His boundless energy allowed the Aces to put the Beermen's surge to a halt. During the crucial stretch, he forced Ronald Tubid to commit a turnover that led to a free throw by JVee Casio, 91-87.

But Fajardo refused to fold and imposed his will, muscling his way inside for a three-point play to keep the Beermen's heads above the water.

The Beermen regained the lead after another basket by Fajardo and a baseline jumper by Chris Lutz, 94-93.

But that shot was actually the start of the Beermen's downfall.

Vic Manuel was found open inside the paint for a throwdown that put Alaska on top for good, 95-94.