LUCENA CITY, Philippines — Alaska can already see the finish line. But as with all else, the final stretch is always the hardest.
With a 3-0 series lead in the 2016 PBA Philippine Cup Finals, the Aces are one win away from the franchise's 15th championship and their first all-Filipino title since 2000. (READ: Owner Uytengsu raring to see Alaska end 16-year PBA PH Cup drought)
But coach Alex Compton is in no way expecting that 4th win to come easy.
"I hope we’re all determined. I hate shortcuts. I hate when people think about shortcuts," Compton said of his team's mindset heading into Game 4 following their 82-75 win over defending champion San Miguel Beer on Friday, January 22.
"I think shortcuts cheat you from your destiny. I’ve been praying that we won’t shortcut anything. We’ll honor the game, we’ll honor San Miguel, we’ll honor the fans of the league from start to finish."
Compton, who fell short twice last season as the Beermen dominated his team, refuses to relax when they are finally almost over the hump.
"I know, out of respect to San Miguel, they will not hand us anything. So no shortcuts. We better come ready to battle."
The Aces have long been ready for this rematch the third time around in a year. They have not lost to the Beermen this conference since the eliminations and have capitalized nicely on the absence of injured reigning back-to-back MVP June Mar Fajardo (knee) in these finals.
True to its notorious reputation, Alaska started slow once again in Game 3 and only kicked into high gear by the final period to nip San Miguel just when they thought they had a chance.
Vic Manuel had another impressive outing with 17 points and 7 rebounds. RJ Jazul provided the clutch floaters in the end and Alaska snuffed out a crestfallen San Miguel. (READ: Appreciating the art of Vic Manuel's simple but effective play)
The Beermen hung their heads in the final 30 seconds as fans filed out of the Quezon Convention Center knowing the game was already decided. But 3 wins won't give the Aces a championship, as they learned the hard way 12 months ago when they lost by a single possession in Game 7 versus the same team.
"I keep saying it because I believe it, San Miguel’s a bunch of winners. We talked about how they will not hand us anything. They’re a bunch of tough competitors and they didn’t hand anything to us at all," Compton stressed, adding he prefers not to treat San Miguel as a "cornered animal."
"From Wisconsin, we got something called badgers. They back into corners and they got really fierce claws. I don’t want them cornered," he said of the Beermen. "They’re free, they’re free, they’re not cornered. We just gotta come out and get a win." — Rappler.com