The Alaska Aces made Barangay Ginebra San Miguel bow down to them, 92-81, in the 2014 PLDT Home Telpad PBA Governors’ Cup on Wednesday, June 18 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum as they punched their ticket to the semifinals and set a rematch with the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters – the same team that trampled them early this month with a 51-point demolition.
“Hopefully they’ll (Rain or Shine) have some mercy on us,” Alaska head coach Alex Compton managed a joke after the game.
“It’ll be a great challenge. I really think they’re playing the best basketball right now but that’s not to take away anything from San Mig Coffee and Talk ‘N Text.”
Since that humiliating loss, the Aces have recovered nicely and are now riding a 4-game win streak heading into the semis.
Asked exactly how he and his team set their paths straight after that kind of loss, Compton turned reflective.
“Things in life really depend on how you take them. I think Rain or Shine did a really great job of giving us a thorough butt-whooping and because of their win and the way that they did it, they have continued that high level of excellent play on both sides of the ball,” he explained.
“For us we really hit rock bottom in that game and I think that loss woke up their competitive spirit and a lot of our guys, their identity, I believe, is that they are champions. That’s who they feel that they are. And that loss made them come alive, I guess you could say.”
Compton, who played for and coached Welcoat before it became the Rain or Shine franchise, says he still feels close to the franchise that gave him his first stint as a coach.
“I had a lot of good memories with Welcoat. Now, they’re great and scary.”
It was a physically charged ballgame with bodies crashing on the floor, a couple of scuffles – including one where LA Tenorio challenged Alaska import Henry Walker – and multiple whistles for technical fouls along with a flagrant foul penalty 1 on Cyrus Baguio.
Ginebra came out firing to start the game but blew a 21-9 lead in the first as Alaska zoomed past them to reach halftime with a 39-33 advantage.
The Gin Kings tried hard to wrestle free from Alaska’s suffocating defense in the second half, slowly chipping away at the lead and coming to within 81-77 on a pair of free throws from Japeth Aguilar (18 points, 7 rebounds) with 3:36 left to play.
However, JVee Casio (15 points) and Dondon Hontiveros (12 points) conspired for two consecutive back-breaking treys that stretched Alaska’s lead to 87-77 with 2:26 on the clock.
Gabby Espinas (12 points, 7 rebounds) then converted an and-one play for good measure, 90-79, with 1:13 remaining for the proverbial nail on the coffin.
Ginebra played one man short with import Zaccheus Mason twisting his right knee early in the second canto. He was taken straight to the locker room where team doctor Ric Pagulayan said the likelihood of him returning to play was “somewhat lesser.”
Pagulayan said they “tried to rule out an ACL” injury as they tried to lessen the pain and the swelling.
Mason, who said he heard a pop in his knee, still returned in the second half and tried playing but was practically running up and down the court on one foot.
He finished with two points and two rebounds in just 15 minutes of action.
“I feel bad for Ginebra that their import went down,” Compton said. “And they still played hard. Hats off to them, they did a good job.”
Alaska won this game on defense once again, keeping Ginebra to just 35% field goal shooting. Though their rough and physical defense put Ginebra on the line too many times as they went 26-of-36, while the Aces went 9-of-15.
Despite the loss that extended Ginebra’s title drought, Compton believes head coach Jeff Cariaso can do good things for them come next season.
“They’re gonna be good for a really long time. I have a lof of respect for Jeff as a person first. I think he’s the type of leader and person who has a sincerity of character about him that will allow him to lead guys for a very long time.”
Alaska 92 – Casio 15, Espinas 12, Hontiveros 12, Abueva 12, Manuel 12, Thoss 11, Walker 7, Jazul 7, Dela Cruz 2, Baguio 2, Belasco 0.
Ginebra 81 – Aguilar 18, Slaughter 16, Baracael 10, Ababou 10, Helterbrand 7, Caguioa 7, Tenorio 6, Mamaril 3, Mason 2, Reyes 2, Ellis 0, Monfort 0.
Quarter scores: 14-21, 39-33, 64-54, 92-81.
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