As attention shifts to the PBA Governors Cup Finals on Tuesday featuring grand slam-seeking San Mig Super Coffee and Rain or Shine, I can’t help but look back at Alaska’s near trip to the Finals last week.
The Aces played without three of their key players in JVee Casio (ankle), Gabby Espinas (ankle/foot) and Sonny Thoss (back spams), but their absence didn’t prevent Alaska from pushing Rain or Shine to its limit before dropping a heart-stopping 94-97 loss in their sudden death match on Saturday.
We all know that Alaska’s championship bid didn’t start out well this conference after the sudden coaching change that saw Luigi Trillo move out, thrusting Alex Compton into the head coaching post.
Compton’s coaching debut was fine after Alaska scored a 103-91 win against an import-less Talk ‘N Text.
But Alaska dropped three straight games after that, capped by a 72-123 crushing defeat at the hands of Rain or Shine – in what proved to be the worst loss ever in franchise’s history.
Compton admitted having to endure long waking hours since assuming the coaching post, studying game tapes and working double time in the hope of salvaging the Aces’ third conference campaign.
And so far, it paid off after Alaska won five straight games, including a 97-93 come-from-behind victory against Rain or Shine to kick off its semifinal campaign.
From there, the Aces managed to make a series out of their playoff date with the Elasto Painters.
Alaska eventually lost to Rain or Shine, 2-3 in the series, but here’s how Compton summarized the Aces’ campaign this conference – “I know that anytime you lose your starting point guard, your starting center, your best scoring power forward, and they would go, ‘ah dehado na kayo, wala kayong pag-asa, wag na, hindi para sa atin.’ (But) there was not one single hint of that in this game (Game 5) and it made me so proud to be their coach.”
“None of us ever want to lose. We put our livelihoods, we put our hearts on the line, I stayed up all night watching the film, these guys beat their bodies every day to try to get better. And they have nothing to be ashamed of, they played so hard, they didn’t give up till the end.”