Despite strong belief they could upset TNT, Aces come up short against big boys
MANILA, Philippines—In the quarterfinals matchup between top seed TNT and no.8 Alaska, which made it to the next round after a playoff win over Meralco, the odds were legitimately stacked in favor of the KaTropa.
With Terrence Jones seen as the best import this conference and TNT’s overall edge in talent, Alaska’s 108-72 domination in Game 1, that blew the KaTropa’s twice-to-beat edge, came as such a surprise.
Another victory Wednesday night would’ve completed what could be one of the biggest upsets this year, and Aces believed they could do it.
“I felt like I had the audacity to hope that we’re going to win this, I actually believed that we’re going to win,” said Compton. “I don’t know how many people believed, but I think our team believed.”
Compton drew inspiration from former United States President Barack Obama who wrote the “The Audacity of Hope,” a book mainly talked about maintaining a sense of optimism despite the struggles of one’s self.
While Alaska had all the tools mentally and emotionally, the KaTropa just showed why it got the top seed in the first place.
The KaTropa restored order with a 104-93 win to advance to the semifinals against no.4 Barangay Ginebra and Compton knew the KaTropa deserved it.
“I think the other team deserved it, I’m not saying we’re not, but I thought we had come up with a different look for them in a lot of ways,” said Compton. “The first half we were able to execute, then the second half the team that was 10-1 [TNT’s record] showed up.”
“The little adjustments that we made, they exposed. We don’t help on Jones, he scores. We help on Jones somebody hits a three. In the fourth, we had a really hard time scoring the basketball.”
Alaska looked to score the upset after taking a 54-44 lead heading into the break, but that only poked the sleeping bear that is TNT.
While the Aces clung on to that hope, the KaTropa slowly got into rhythm and by the end of the third quarter trailed by just two points, 81-79, and that would be the precursor for TNT’s closeout in the fourth.
TNT outscored Alaska 25-12 in the payoff period including a quick 6-0 run in a span of two minutes to take a 93-87 lead off of Jayson Castro’s layup with 5:15 to play.
Jones then closed the affair with a personal 7-0 run to put the KaTropa up 102-90 with less than half-a-minute remaining.
“I didn’t plan anything, I planned on winning,” said Compton. “I thought we prepared our way into a chance to steal this, but they [the KaTropa] earned it. We got to get better to beat the big boys.”
But even with the victory seemingly out of reach, the Aces held on to that hope until the waning moments of the game.
“When it looked like there was no hope, we didn’t stop hoping and fighting. It’s really easy to roll over and die, and I don’t think our guys didn’t do that one second,” said Compton. “At one point we were down 10, we’re still fouling and coming down trying to make a three, see if we can make a miracle happen, and it was almost mathematically impossible, but we’re still trying.”
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