Head coach Alex Compton admitted that after the Alaska Aces fell by 22 entering the halftime break against Barako Bull, he just wanted his wards to play the style of basketball they were known for, without minding the gap nor outcome of the match.
“It was really ugly in the first half. I said at halftime I don’t really care about the result anymore but it better be the team that we coach that shows up out there,” Compton said.
The Aces responded with attrition and flashed the feisty, never-give-up attitude they were known for in the second half, making the enormous Energy lead vanish.
“I was encouraged to hear Romeo (Travis) light his teammates up. He sounded like a coach. They showed great leadership. He expressed himself in high volume at halftime and entered the second half with energy. He talked the talk and then went out and walked the walk,” Compton quipped of the Aces import which played the center position for most of the second half, limiting Liam McMorrow to only 9 points after allowing 18 in the first two quarters.
Travis finished with 23 points, 14 rebounds, and 5 assists, only a rebound shy of McMorrow’s total. Chris Banchero was a plus-20 while RJ Jazul was plus-25 as both guards aided in the full-court trap while combining for 31 points.
Overall, Compton praised his wards for the toughness and character they have shown, playing collectively as one. The Aces seemed to have wanted it more, outrebounding Barako 59-47. They also shut down the Energy to only 33 points in the second half after allowing them to score 62. The Aces eventually won, 101-95 to improve to 7-2.
“All around, our team does not have just one hero. It was that consistent (thought) that we are not giving up. They did it. It was not really a magical game plan but I have good high-character guys who want to put their hearts out there. They were bent on doing it,” Compton added.
The mentor also lauded Calvin Abueva for the forward’s relentlessness and propensity to showcase unparalleled energy when on the floor, impacting the game in whatever way possible.
“Since watching the PBA in 1998 when I returned to the Philippines, I cannot recall a single player who can do what Calvin does. As a coach he will break down some stuff sometimes but his energy, he gets to ball nobody gets to,” he said.
“When you have the ball, you can score and they can’t. Calvin flies around, stops guards at penetration and outrebounds (taller) guys. His energy obviously matters and we’re grateful to have him.”
The Aces have done things once again as a unit, and with such cohesiveness, the team is expected to go a long way.