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Cariaso on Alaska’s mindset vs Magnolia: ‘We approached this thinking we were 1-1’

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Alaska headed into Saturday’s match versus 2020 PBA Philippine Cup favorites in Magnolia with a 0-2 record, but that slate wasn’t on the Aces’ minds.

“We approached this game thinking we were 1-1,” said head coach Jeff Cariaso.

“And I say that because we felt like we should’ve won that first game.”

The Aces’ first game was versus TNT Tropang Giga on opening day. There, they got off to a good start, leading by 16 points, only to lose composure in the end and bow out, 95-100.

“[The] Mistakes we made were our mistakes, things that we could control,” said the cager-turned-coach, who’s now in his second season at the helm.

“So when you approach it that way compared to being 0-2, I think the mindset is different.”

The results prove that having that kind of approach helped. The Milkmen pulled the necessary plays on both ends down the stretch, taking down the Hotshots, 87-81, for their breakthrough win.

And Cariaso feels proud of the way his wards showed up, especially on the defensive side of the floor. After all, the performance came against the squad that was the barometer of defense last season.

“You come into this game against a very well-coached and very talented Magnolia team… They have superstars on their team that we really have to be worried about. To be able to step up and be better defensively was my biggest take on tonight’s game,” said the seasoned mentor, who once served as an assistant with the Purefoods franchise during the time of Coach Tim Cone.

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The likes of Jvee Casio and Mike DiGregorio made big shots in the clutch, but the Aces’ stops were just as important in closing it out.

DiGregorio first made a triple that widened their lead to four with 54.6 seconds left. Vic Manuel then blocked Mark Barroca’s shot five seconds later.

Casio had his own key stop as well. He swatted away the shot of Jackson Corpuz from beyond the arc with 15 ticks left. to stave off any comeback attempt.

“Just going into the game, you kinda don’t know what we’re expecting, to be honest with you. We just try to be our best. I challenged the guys going into tonight’s game that we just need to be better in what we do. And the guys showed it tonight – defensively, they were a lot better than the first two games,” said Cariaso.

“We just hope to improve as the conference goes on.”

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