Using last season’s unfortunate semis loss as motivation, the Alaska Aces made their way back to the semifinals series and as fate would have it, they will face the team that defeated them in last season’s Governors’ Cup – the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters.
The Aces would have been the finals nemesis of eventual champion San Mig Coffee (now known as the Purefoods Star Hotshots) but the series took a sudden twist late in Game 4 when Alaska appeared to have the game in the bag. JVee Casio was scooting down for a fastbreak lay up that would have given the Aces a four-point lead with only a few seconds left, but the cool and calculating guard accidentally slipped and lost the ball.
That allowed the Elasto Painters to map out a game-tying play that sent the game to overtime.
Worse, Casio was sidelined by injury, leaving the Aces without a healthy premier point guard for the deciding fifth game, a game which Rain or Shine won by a breeze.
Aces never forget
“I’ll take that 51-point loss if we won the championship. But what sticks to my mind more was the fact that we lost to them in the semifinals,” said Alaska coach Alex Compton.
Prior to losing in the semifinals, Compton’s team was also beaten soundly by Rain or Shine by 51 points, the worst loss received by the franchise since joining the league in 1986 and the worst beating the American mentor received since college. Things like that, according to Compton, are easy to forget when his team is playing for the championship and the pain was compounded more when fate eluded them following Casio’s spill.
Sonny Thoss, the veteran center, admitted they won’t forget the incident. “Everyone remembers it,” he added. “But we need to focus [on] the task at hand and get a chance to meet them again in a seven-game series.”
Casio would have been the last person to forget such a freak accident, but the former La Salle guard was ready to put it behind him.
“Move forward lang, nakalimutan ko na yun,” he added. “The important thing now is our preparation for Rain or Shine. Hopefully, we have become better now.”
“It is something we already put behind us,” added assistant coach Topex Robinson. “We are really looking forward to get another chance to make it to the finals.”
The Aces will battle the Elasto Painters in a seven-game series, and for Tony dela Cruz, it will give both teams a chance to make the necessary adjustments. “We play similar with Rain or Shine. We both have talented players and in a seven-game series, it will be a battle of adjustments. It will work for either team,” he added.