PBA: Alaska faces uncertainties as curtain closes on franchise | Inquirer Sports
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PBA: Alaska faces uncertainties as curtain closes on franchise

/ 07:00 PM March 20, 2022

Alaska Aces PBA

The Alaska Aces’ decades-long stint in the PBA ended following a loss to the NLEX Road Warriors in the Governors’ Cup quarterfinals. PBA IMAGES

MANILA, Philippines—The Philippine Basketball Association’s curtains finally descended on Alaska on Saturday night, ending the club’s decades-long stint with Asia’s pioneering pro league.

The Aces bowed to a sharper NLEX side, 96-80, falling short of their goal to ride off into the sunset with another PBA title—a bid that was supposed to add to the franchise’s fabled 35 seasons built on a culture of winning with integrity, losing with honor and adorned with 14 championships, including a legendary triple-crown sweep.

“I did not have this plan today,” Aces coach Jeff Cariaso told the Inquirer with a long face and a somber tone. “I’m at a little loss for words, even in that post-game presser, if you noticed. But again, this is our reality.”

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“[With] regards to the game, again, I always say we have to deserve to win. We really do, especially in these playoffs. Tonight, we didn’t deserve to win … you have to get out and get it,” he added.

Alaska seized control of the game as soon as the opening bell rang. The Aces had a 7-0 cushion in the first frame but saw that edge evaporate following a Jeron Teng flagrant foul on NLEX import Cameron Clark.

The Road Warriors hung on and then drew big numbers from their reinforcement in the two middle quarters that practically welded their hands on the driver seat for good.

League chief Willie Marcial paid tribute to the franchise with a final buzzer ceremony right after the contest, with confetti showering members of the team as a swathe of Alaska faithful donning red shirts stood in applause.

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Alaska’s heartwarming catchphrase from its iconic television commercial also rang in the form of a piano tune shortly after the tribute. Anxiety, however, was palpable inside the cavernous Big Dome as players gazed blankly into the distance.

“Congrats to NLEX, they did a good job. Moving forward, we just had to see what happens,” said Cariaso. “We don’t know what’s going to happen next. But I think this week is going to be huge.”

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Cariaso said the Alaska management is in the process of threshing out particulars with a potential buyer, which should bode well for most of the members of the club, especially for the players.

A former pro who wound up coaching the very team that drafted him, Cariaso said that the talks have put priority on keeping the Aces intact. Other pertinent details, including whether the coaching staff will be retained, remain up in the air.

“I think they’re down to just two prospective buyers. Maybe at this point, it’s just down to one,” Marcial told the Inquirer on Sunday when asked about the franchise sale.

“If they’re able to get to an agreement, we’re going to ask the buyer several requirements and then a letter (signifying their intention) to participate,” he went on.

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“It is likely we don’t go to a (dispersal). I think the players showed well this (conference). And also, while a lot of them are expiring the rights will be carried over (to the buyer).”

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TAGS: Alaska Aces, PBA

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