It was a victory so sweet for Alex Compton and the Alaska Aces.
The Milkmen made use of their win-once playoff incentive and defeated long-time rivals San Miguel Beermen, 96-85, to head straight into the 2018 PBA Governors’ Cup semifinals, Wednesday night at the Cuneta Astrodome in Pasay.
For so long, the Beermen have been a tormentor of the Aces. Who would ever forget the time when San Miguel overcame Alaska’s 3-0 lead in the 2016 Philippine Cup Finals, the run now famously known as the Beeracle?
Add to that the fact that just recently, in the 2018 Commissioner’s Cup, the Aces headed into the semifinals as the second seed, only to lose to a Renaldo Balkman-reinforced Beermen in four games of a best-of-five series.
But for Compton, what really made the difference in Alaska’s win was June Mar Fajardo.
The reigning, four-time Most Valuable Player faced the Aces on Wednesday, but he wasn’t at a hundred percent, as he has just come off recovery from a stress fracture in his right shin, a result of wear-and-tear as he played through it last conference.
“One of the things about Beeracle is June Mar didn’t play in the first four games. I think the most dominant force in the league matters. And he didn’t play most of this conference and he’s just getting his groove back,” said Compton.
“June Mar changes everything,” added the American bench strategist, who has been the Aces’ chief mentor since 2014. “I mean it’s not an accident that he got four straight MVPs. The kid is special. He’s a once-in-a-lifetime type of player.
“So am I happy that we beat San Miguel? Absolutely. I’m ecstatic, thrilled.”
The celebration in the Aces’ camp won’t last long, though, as they still have the semifinals to work on. They will now wait for the winner between the Meralco Bolts and the Phoenix Fuel Masters, who will slug it out this Friday.
Still, it was one sweet triumph.
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