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Miller on fire with 28 as Aces buck Varem triple double

Willie Miller did pretty well coming off the bench, scoring in the clutch with the game on the line and helping Alaska weather a late charge by the Barako Bull for a 100-90 victory Friday night at the Araneta Coliseum.

Alaska’s best closer scored nine of his game-high 28 points in the last six and a half minutes of the game, including six straight points as the Aces extended a one-point deficit to 87-82 and went on to snap a three-game losing streak in the Motolite PBA Fiesta Conference.

Coming off the bench for only the second time in 40 games this season Miller didn’t seem distracted by coach Tim Cone’s surprise move, making 12 of 19 shots including 3-of-7 from behind the arc, cornered six rebounds, had four assists and two steals in 35 minutes.

The Philippine Cup Best Player of the Conference matched his highest output this conference which he registered in a 96-94 loss to Rain or Shine last March 12.

“We got a little aggressiveness from Willie tonight,” said Cone of his two-time MVP who wasn’t a starter for the first time this conference.

Cone admitted the last two weeks had been tough for him and his troops but was glad “we finally got the monkey off our backs.”

“We’ve been practicing really well (but) we just couldn’t translate it in the game. So it gets you really,” said Cone, adding the Aces never really established a good rhythm this conference for reasons beyond their control.

“Right now we’re just trying to get ourselves ready for the playoffs. Nobody’s getting eliminated but we’re hoping we could avoid being the ninth or 10th seed.”

Rosell Ellis scored 20 points, Jeffrey Cariaso, starting in place of Miller, had 16 and LA Tenorio added 11 for the Aces, who improved to a 3-6 (win-loss) record.

With Reed Juntilla and Gabby Espinas taking care of business, the Barakos raced to a 16-8 lead but the Aces picked up the pace and closed the opening quarter with a 14-6 run to pull even at 22-22.

The Barakos, who fell to 3-6 with their second straight defeat, regained a 41-38 lead on back-to-back baskets by Carlo Sharma before the Aces responded with a 12-4 run to for a 50-45 halftime lead.

Alaska extended the margin to 76-65 on a three-pointer by Mark Borboran but the Barakos refused to go away quietly and threatened again at 80-81 on a 3-pointer by John Arigo before Miller got the job done.

Arigo scored 25 points and Jeff Varem tallied the conference’s second triple double with 13 points, 23 boards and 10 assists in this first game for the Barakos, who outrebounded the Aces, 51-41, but gave up 22 points on 24 turnovers. (DBC)

The scores:

Alaska 100 - Miller 28, Ellis 20, Cariaso 16, Tenorio 11, Borboran 7, Thoss 7, Ferriols 7, De Vance 2, Fonacier 2, Hugnatan 0, Cablay 0.

Barako Bull 90 - Arigo 25, Varem 13, Espinas 13, Juntilla 12, Najorda 10, Sharma 6, Hubalde 5, Rodriguez 4, Chan 2, Duncil 0, Hrabak 0, Crisano 0.

Quarterscores: 22-22, 50-45, 73-65, 100-90.

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