MANILA, Philippines – For the first few minutes of Monday night’s game, new Alaska Aces head coach Alex Compton did not look good.
It was his first game with the Aces after being installed as head coach a day prior, and facing the highly systematic Talk ’N Text Tropang Texters is not the ideal assignment to ease into a new role.
Ranidel de Ocampo was a force right away, scoring 6 of the Texters’ first 10 points. The other 4 came from Kelly Williams. De Ocampo would eventually finish the opening canto with 13 points before going on to finish with 27 points.
The Texters were fluid. Their defense forced Alaska to commit turnovers which translated to fastbreak opportunities on the other end. Talk ‘N Text’s offense was on-point, too. Passing was crisp and, most important of all, their shots barely missed.
But that’s when Compton rose to the occasion and impressed in his debut as a coach with a 103-91 victory for his Aces on Monday, May 26 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Compton made the defensive adjustments in the second quarter, making sure that the Texters’ outside shots were challenged as much as possible. This led to the Aces wresting control of the game at the half, 54-49.
“It wasn’t as much the adjustments as much as what we talked about yesterday at practice. We had some fundamental breakdowns early on,” Compton said when asked what adjustments he made.
“Ranidel was killing us. At one point, I’m not sure, Ranidel may have been beating us by himself.”
The huge margin on assists pretty much told the story of how Alaska shut down Talk ‘N Text.
A usually unselfish team, Talk ‘N Text finished with only 12 assists, 7 of which came in the first period alone. Alarmingly, they had zero assists in the second quarter, which means for the crucial last 24 minutes, the Texters had only 5 assists.
This was in stark contrast to the Aces’ 23 assists, which was distributed fairly equally with 12 in the first half and 11 in the second.
It’s also worth noting the disparity on rebounds, 45-28, with Alaska holding the advantage.
But for Compton, Alaska’s biggest advantage was the absence of Texters import Othyus Jeffers, who was unable to suit up due to contractual issues.
“It’s good that we won. That was nice. The guys played great. Sa totoo lang, ang hirap naman ng situation ng Talk ‘N Text na walang import,” Compton remarked of his first win.
(To be honest, it’s a difficult situation for Talk ‘N Text having no import.)
He added: “It’s a tough position for them to be in. It was obviously a clear advantage for us.”
According to Talk ‘N Text head coach Norman Black Jeffers was released by his team the Minnesota Timberwolves but was disallowed by the NBA to play as they wanted to hold on to his rights until June 30.
The Texters will replace him with 29-year old 5-year NBA vet Rodney Carney, who Black says will arrive tomorrow, May 27 and will play in the team’s next game against Rain or Shine on Wednesday, May 28.
“You know I haven’t actually seen him play,” Black admitted. “He was recommended by agents. I will take a look at him tomorrow.”
The Texters were never able to recover and sustain their early momentum.
Coming off a sweep of the eliminations from last conference, Talk ‘N Text, this time around, aren’t so perfect. They were vulnerable.
And the Aces, raring to bag the follow-up to their last title from the 2013 Commissioner’s Cup, pounced right away.
Alaska import Henry Walker, despite being frustrated by calls in the fourth quarter, ended up with 27 points, 7 rebounds, and 10 assists.
Four other Aces scored in double figures, including JVee Casio with his 21 points on 3-of-5 triples, as well as Sonny Thoss and Cyrus Baguio who had 14 points apiece.
“I have zero magic up my sleeves. It’s just the guys playing great,” Compton said.
Compton, who was previously an assistant coach for Alaska, said he doesn’t plan on implementing a new system in the middle of the conference.
“There’s no way. To change our system in a day, either we’re stupid or it’s impossible.”
For the Texters, Jayson Castro and Williams contributed 23 and 13 points, respectively.
With the win, Alaska rose to 2-1 as the Texters dropped to 1-1.
Alaska 103 – Walker 27, Casio 21, Thoss 14, Baguio 14, Espinas 10, Manuel 7, Hontiveros 6, Abueva 4, Dela Cruz 0, Jazul 0, Eman 0.
Talk ’N Text 91 – De Ocampo 27, Castro 23, Williams 13, Fonacier 7, Ryan Reyes 6, Alapag 6, Seigle 5, Baclao 2, Carey 2, Rob Reyes 0, Aban 0, Espiritu 0.
Quarter scores: 26-31, 54-49, 77-68, 103-91.
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