Alaska begins bid to rectify mistakes of past conference
Alaska rolled its sleeves in the second half to escape new-look NorthPort by the skin of its teeth, 87-85, officially taking the lid off the PBA’s season-ending Governors’ Cup and getting their campaign off the right foot.
Robbie Herndon hit a tough jumper with 30 ticks remaining, bringing the Aces back up, 86-85, and effectively upending a late Batang Pier surge led by Greg Slaughter and Arwind Santos.
Jeron Teng then went on to split his freebies when NorthPort resorted to stopping the clock with a foul, but with six seconds remaining—the Batang Pier took too much time figuring out it was time to send someone to the stripe—Alaska pretty much had the game sewn up.
A desperation heave by NorthPort’s young star Robert Bolick clanked off the iron as time run out.
“You can tell that there are still lots of rust, but I’m just happy that we’re able to pull it off,” Alaska coach Jeff Cariaso said with sigh of relief, as his charges averted a meltdown.
“I guess in any conference you always want to start on the right foot so we’ll take any win we can,” he added.
Meanwhile, PBA commissioner Willie Marcial said the Pasay City government has allowed the league to accommodate fans to its games, should it choose to hold playdates there.
That puts the PBA a step closer to finally putting spectators back in its playing arenas.
But that development might have to wait a little longer.
The league chief, however, noted that the Mall of Asia Arena won’t be available for the PBA until January next year, leaving the league still at a loss of how to put fans in the stands for Christmas.
Import Olu Ashaoulu finished with 20 points and 14 rebounds, while Teng chipped in 19 and Herndon 13 for an Alaska side looking to cash in the lessons from a disappointing campaign last Philippine Cup, where they won only three games.
“Last conference was really disappointing for us,” said Teng. “There were lessons learned in that conference, so we’re looking to really bounce back for this conference, striving to prepare for this [one].”
The Aces were in control in the third period and then continued looking like the sharper lot by taking leads of as many as 11 points in the fourth. But as if making a statement with his former team preparing nearby, Santos caught fire, willing Batang Pier back in the thick of things.
The 40-year-old forward, traded by San Miguel Beer during the break, unloaded 14 of his game-high 23 points in NorthPort’s fightback, just five points shy of the Aces’ total in that period.
“I don’t know if we could say we neutralized [him]. Arwind is Arwind,” said Cariaso. “But he’s a vet. He knows where to get his shots from. And it doesn’t matter which team he’s playing for.”
“As long as he can get his shots, he’ll make them. A true veteran there,” he added.
The Beermen lost to NLEX, 114-102, in the second game.
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