ALASKA legends admitted it felt like the nineties all over again during their thrilling final against San Miguel in the UNTV Cup PBA Legends Faceoff.
The Milkmen ruled the first edition of the Legends Faceoff after a thrilling 77-75 win over San Miguel on Monday night which Johnny Abarrientos clinched with a fastbreak lay-up with 12.2 seconds left at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Jojo Lastimosa, one of the legends who called the shots on the Alaska bench, said the atmosphere during the benefit game organized by the PBA Legends Foundation brought the players to a trip down memory lane.
“It felt like it was the nineties again,” said Lastimosa, who played for Alaska from 1991 to 1999 and won nine championships with the team. “The intensity of San Miguel and Alaska were pretty much the same although mabagal na lang.”
“Pero nakikita mo ‘yung intensity, ‘yung mindset na ayaw magpatalo. It was there. Competition was there. Big shot after big shot. It was the kind of game that we were looking na sana maganda ‘yung game.”
With Abarrientos, Lastimosa, and Bong Hawkins leading the charge, the Milkmen were labeled as the team of the 90s after winning nine titles over that stretch including a grand slam under coach Tim Cone in 1996.
The Milkmen fought back from an eight-point deficit but the comeback was far from easy. After a trey by Willie Miller put Alaska up, San Miguel countered with sharpshooter Allan Caidic hitting a three of his own to tie the game at 75.
After a miss by San Miguel, Abarrientos and Miller conspired in a fastbreak play with Abarrientos scoring a lay-up againstOlsen Racela.
“Kala ko matatapik ni Olsen,” Abarrientos said of his lay-up. “Buti hindi niya tinamaan. Late na rin ‘yung bounce (pass) ni Willie. Buti nasalo ko kasi nasa ilalim na ako eh. Pinektusan ko na lang ng konti. Buti kumagat. Na-shoot."
Abarrientos said he, too, saw the intensity pick up in the second half as younger players Chris Calaguio and Kiko Adriano picked up the tempo for SMB.
“Grinding game. Grabe ‘yung mga bata nila. Si Calaguio, hindi nagmi-miss. Sabi ko tiyagain namin. All we need was one point lang. Wala tayong choice. Kung manalo tayo ng one point, so be it. ‘Yun nga ‘yung nangyari,” said the 1996 PBA MVP.
Abarrientos was even called for an unsportsmanlike foul on the last play of the third quarter after he was caught attempting to trip Racela after a turnover.
“Hindi ako tinawagan ng blocking kaya medyo na-frustrate ako. Nag-sorry nga ako kay Olsen dahil pinatid ko siya,” said Abarrientos, who incidentally is one of the assistant coaches of Racela in Far Eastern University.
“Unsportsman talaga pero part ng game ‘yun eh. Emotions ko, hindi ako natawagan ng foul. Buti na lang hindi natamaan si Olsen.”
Abarrientos paid tribute to San Miguel, who put up a gallant effort despite missing a slew of players including Danny Seigle, Danny Ildefonso, and Nelson Asaytono.
“Pero give credit to San Miguel. Pito lang silang naglaro pero grabe ‘yung sistema nila. Palibhasa, wala na naglalaro sa amin. Tulong tulong na lang talaga kami kaya nakatawid,” said Abarrientos.
More than the title, Lastimosa said the players are also happy to be able to contribute to the PBA Legends Foundation’s mission of helping less fortunate former players.
“It is for a good cause. That’s one good thing about the tournament. It’s not about us but our fellow players na who are not so blessed like us here in terms of health-wise and social standing. It’s one way of extending our hand and we thank kuya Daniel (Razon) to have this venue.”