AFTER a prolonged slump which found even his most faithful fans worried Jvee Casio —the Alaska Aces’ court general, shooter and fearless clutch performer—is back to his old deadly self.
The man who took over the mantle of closing out games for the Aces —much like Jojo Lastimosa and Willie Miller before him—was again counted on to help deliver a victory for the Aces who beat the Rain Or Shine Elasto Painters to gain a twice-to-beat advantage in the Quarterfinals of the 2017 Philippine Basketball Association Philippine Cup.
The game against Rain Or Shine seemed headed to a bleak outcome after James Yap drilled a three-pointer to cap a 7-0 run by the Elasto Painters as the Aces trailed by seven points, 79-86, with 7:17 left to play.
For some incomprehensible reason Rain Or Shine coach Caloy Garcia suddenly pulled out Yap and the Aces came storming back.
Calvin Abueva followed up his own miss. Kevin Racal converted a fastbreak layup. Ping Exciminiano converted two-of-two free throws. Sonny Thoss dribbled into the paint, pivoted once, then converted a hook shot to cap the Alaska 8-0 run which left the Aces leading by a point, 87-86, with 3:51 left to play.
Jeff Chan converted a three-pointer and the Aces trailed by two points, 87-89. Casio then eluded a pair of Rain Or Shine defenders to convert a layup then drained two free throws to push the Aces ahead for good, 91-89, with 2:18 left to play.
With Yap on the bench and Jericho Cruz not getting a hand on the ball Jeff Chan and Beau Belga passed the basketball around like a hot potato. Neither player dared to take a shot.
Vic Manuel broke up the passing exchange between the two by tapping the ball. Exciminiano recovered the rock then galloped ahead to convert a fastbreak layup and push Alaska beyond recall, 94-89, with 1:15 left to play. RJ Jazul finalized the count, 94-89, with a free throw.
Casio finished with a game-high 25 points, five rebounds, one assist and one steal to win Player of the Game honors. He was deadly from outside converting five of six triple attempts.
Casio has been steady all conference. He averages 12.55 points, 3.45 assists, 3.36 rebounds and one steal per game.
After starting the conference at the bottom of the standings the Aces painstakingly climbed all the way up to second place after they posted the hard-earned victory over Rain Or Shine in their last game of the elimination round.
“The team really wanted to win. We wanted to be in a better position going into the playoffs. We had confidence and we just tried really hard to win this game. For us the playoffs started a while ago because we really needed to win our last few games. We wanted to advance so we really worked hard for the victories,” said Casio.
Against Rain Or Shine Casio was red-hot right from the start of the game. He exploded from the field converting three consecutive three-pointers as Alaska tied the count at 13-all with 6:11 to go in the first period.
Casio would go on to play with sustained game-long brilliance as he led the Aces to the hard-earned victory.
The Aces play Barangay Ginebra 6:45 p.m., today at the Ynares Center in Antipolo City.
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