The well-rested Alaska crew was expected to be in great form in the PBA Philippine Cup finals series opener Sunday, but they entered the game the exact opposite way: flat, tentative, slow.
Alaska did not find the groove early on, and despite being able to hang on with San Miguel for the first three quarters, the Aces appeared to be on their way to losing Game 1.
The Aces played as if a notch lower than the energy showed by the Fajardo-less yet eager Beermen. “We came out extremely slow, we didn’t have the type of basketball until halfway in the fourth,” Chris Banchero said.
The Aces were still trailing, 75-66 entering the payoff period and a trey by Yancy De Ocampo pushed the lead to double-digits, 78-66 for the defending champions.
Good thing, Alex Compton’s group seemingly found a magic switch which they turned on to suddenly play the brand of basketball they were known for. “Then we turned our switched on and played our brand of basketball,” Banchero added.
Alaska clamped down on San Miguel defensively, and were able to run and get transition baskets off turnovers and stops. Alaska had a 24-15 lead in turnover points to end the game. The Aces also outrebounded the Beermen, 48-28.
Overall, the Aces outscored the Beermen 34-16 in the payoff period to pull out a 100-91 win. But the team knows it has to play better in the next games, taking care not to let the Beermen have control early on.
“We gotta play better than that if we want to win the championship. It shows the resiliency the squad has and when he had that run we never looked back. That is the type of basketball we play. We just keep on coming. We are just happy we got the win,” Banchero said.
“Nag-dominate sila buong laro eh. Mahirap kapag ganun lagi ang game, yung maghahabol ka. Dapat mapantayan namin sila. Hindi yung alam mong hahabol ka ng malaki. Siguro napagod na lang din sila,” Cyrus Baguio added.
Banchero shared the entire group might have gotten a little ahead of themselves, especially with the excitement to return to the championship.
“We are just a little gigil, it’s just the finals and we are back here, everyone was kind of excited, we were not focused on what we wanted to do. It took us a while to settle, almost an entire game, and we were able to pull this one out “ Banchero said, hoping the team displays the same game they showed throughout the furious fourth quarter run in the next meeting.
“Yun lang ginawa namin kanina eh, lalo na yung grupo namin, laro lang kami, bahala na. Nagfactor siguro yung depensa, napagod sila. Buti na lang naka-convert rin kami sa offense. Sana sa next game, hindi ganoon ang mangyari. Kailangan labanan namin sila,” Baguio added.