MANILA, Philippines -- Vic Manuel showed the way for the Alaska Aces on Thursday night as they overhauled a double-digit deficit for a 105-97 win against the Phoenix Super LPG Fuel Masters.
The "Muscle Man" attempted 14 field goals and made 11 of them, shrugging off all the defenders sent his way by Phoenix Super LPG. He finished with a team-high 24 points, 10 of which came in a dominant fourth quarter for the Aces.
It continues a string of solid performances for Manuel, who is now averaging 17.0 points and 6.5 rebounds per game in the 2020 PBA Philippine Cup.
"Ako kasi, sa akin, ready lang ako lagi 'pag naglalaro ako," Manuel said in a televised post-game press conference. "As one of the veterans, kailangan mag-lead ka rin talaga eh, especially 'pag endgame na."
For Alaska head coach Jeff Cariaso, this goes to show that Manuel is embracing the role they have given him, as both the team's leader and primary scoring option.
While the Aces had other contributors -- such as Mike DiGregorio, who had 21 points, and veteran guard JVee Casio, who wound up with 13 -- it was Manuel's dominance inside the paint that allowed them to take control of the ball game.
When Phoenix Super LPG guard Matthew Wright began to wax hot down the stretch, hitting a series of triples, it was Manuel who bullied his way inside for buckets that kept Alaska comfortably ahead.
"Vic is turning into that guy that we can rely on down the stretch. And that's part of his role now," Cariaso explained. "We ask him to be that leader. Like I said, kasama 'yun sa role niya is being reliable down the stretch."
The coach believes that Manuel's match-up against former Alaska teammate Calvin Abueva further motivated him in the game.
"The Beast" was no slouch, putting up 18 points, eight rebounds and five assists in only his second game back from suspension. But it was Manuel who had the last laugh between the two good friends.
"Of course, he's gonna be a little more excited tonight because of Calvin," Cariaso said of Manuel. "You know, I like that. I like when other players bring out the best in you, and Calvin does that to him. I'm sure he does that to Calvin."
"So it was nice to see that Vic again was reliable for us down the stretch," he added.
Alaska now has a 5-3 win-loss record in the conference, putting them closer to securing a quarterfinals spot.