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Alaska spoils Santos’ Northport debut

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Alaska import Olu Ashaolu attacks the defense of NorthPort center Greg Slaughter during their PBA Governors’ Cup game Wednesday at the Ynares Sports Arena. The Aces won, 87-85. (PBA photo)

Alaska escaped with a thrilling 87-85 victory over NorthPort to open its Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Governors’ Cup campaign on a high note Wednesday at the Ynares Sports Arena.

The Aces relied on its well-balanced attack to book its first win in this season-ending conference and spoil the impressive performance of Arwind Santos, who played for a different team for the first time since spending 12 years with San Miguel Beer.

Import Olu Ashaolu led the way with 20 points, 14 rebounds and three steals assists while Jeron Teng registered 19 points, three rebounds and four assists for the Aces, who are looking to bounce back following a forgettable performance in the Philippine Cup in Pampanga.

Robbie Herndon was also impressive, chipping in 13 markers, including the go-ahead jumper in the final 30 seconds that gave the Aces the 86-85 lead.

This is the second consecutive opening-day win of the Aces after they demolished Blackwater, 103-77 in the Philippine Cup tip-off last July.

“I guess, in any conference, you always want to start on the right foot in any way you can,” Alaska head coach Jeff Cariaso said.

“We have been in better shape as compared to our last two conferences. You try to win early and have a feel of playing back, just happy that we’re able to win.”

Down 26-31 in the early stretch of the game, Ashaolu began to assert his dominance inside the paint and towed the Aces to a 41-39 lead at the half.

Teng hit back-to-back jumpers which gave Alaska a 10-point cushion, 72-62, at the start of the final canto.

Santos, however, found his rhythm late in the game and drilled six consecutive points that threatened Alaska’s poise with 1:44 left, 68-72.

Slaughter converted a quick basket and NorthPort eventually took the lead, 84-85.

Then, Herndon nailed a crucial turnaround jumper to give the Aces the lead, 86-85, before Teng hit the final kick to seal the victory.

Santos, who was shipped by San Miguel top NorthPort for Vic Manuel last month, opened his Batang Pier stint with a game-high 23 points, seven rebounds and four blocks in almost 30 minutes of action.

Naturalized Jordanian import Cameron Forte and big man Greg Slaughter, meanwhile, delivered 18 points apiece for the Batang Pier, who are still working on their chemistry inside and outside the court.

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