Teng, young Aces rescue Alaska in 2nd game since announcing departure
MANILA, Philippines–Jeron Teng understands that he is merely counting the days until the franchise that drafted him almost five years ago is no more. Given the chance to go out on their own terms, Teng gave Alaska’s fans something that they will not soon forget.
“I was simply inspired. We knew how important this game was,” he said. “We know how crucial the next games are.”
Once the cornerstone of the franchise, whose career is currently without a rudder following the announcement that his team will fold at the end of the season, Teng scored a career-best 30 points, greasing the Aces’ fightback from 20 points down on the way to a thrilling 102-97 victory over Terrafirma in the PBA Governors’ Cup on Saturday at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
That put Alaska 2-0 in its six-game—at least—farewell tour. But the team’s chances of exiting the league with a crown will hinge a lot on its coming games, when the Aces face four of the tournament’s current top teams.
“This is that classic case of going through adversity and finding a way to win,” Alaska coach Jeff Cariaso told the Inquirer, as his charges improved to 5-2.
“This showed us how bad we were and how good we could be. And that’s something we could use to go from,” he added.
Aside from Teng’s phenomenal showing and Abu Tratter’s solid 21 points and 10 rebounds, Cariaso also commended the steely nerves of Alaska’s youngsters, which helped spur the Aces’ high-wire escape.
Grateful to Alaska for giving me a home for the last 4 years. It’s been an honor to play for the franchise. This will be our last conference as Alaska Aces, will definitely make it count! #TheLastAce #TheLastDance #WeNotMe @alaska_aces #2017PBAdraft pic.twitter.com/CVi186NZvc
— Jeron Teng (@jeronteng) February 16, 2022
“It has been hard [playing through this emotional phase]. But one thing each one of these 15 guys had to understand was that their name could be called. And that was the case for RK (Ilagan), Alec (Stockton) and Rey (Publico). They were ready,” he said.
Together, they kept the Aces from breaking at the seams, sparking that fightback in the payoff period that eventually doomed Terrafirma to 2-5.
“What I think the biggest learning tonight is the composure everyone maintained in spite of being down 20. Things aren’t going down our way but we knew there’s still a quarter to play and the guys just stayed positive, they kept playing,” said Cariaso.
And both Cariaso and Teng believe that will come handy when Alaska plunges back into action on Wednesday.
“Without a doubt, this wouldn’t have been possible if it wasn’t for our bench guys being ready,” Cariaso said.
“This is a big motivation, a big boost to dig deep and do whatever it takes to make the franchise and its fans proud,” said Teng.
Alaska will face NLEX next, followed by Meralco and then Phoenix Super LPG. The club, which put its franchise up for sale last Wednesday, will cap its elimination round campaign against current leader Magnolia.