IT may just be the preseason, but beating three San Miguel Corp. teams in a two-week span has boosted Alaska’s confidence as it continues its preparations for the PBA Season 38 kicking off on September 30.
Playing without three key players, including rookie Calvin Abueva, the Aces rode on the endgame heroics of JVee Casio and Tony de la Cruz to beat crowd-favorite Barangay Ginebra 89-85 on Saturday at the Reyes gym.
“It’s a good confidence-booster for us, considering that we were down by 16 at one point. We played with great courage and made the important plays when we needed it,” said a beaming Alaska coach Luigi Trillo.
The Aces are now 3-1 this preseason with earlier victories over Petron and San Mig Coffee. The Aces’ lone blemish came at the hands of the Barako Bull Energy on Wednesday, 77-90.
Veteran shooter Dondon Hontiveros didn’t play due to an inflamed left knee, while center Sonny Thoss is currently with the Smart Gilas 2.0 that is competing in the Fiba Asia Cup in Tokyo, Japan. On the other hand, the 6-foot-1 Abueva will only join the Aces at the end of the NCAA season.
In their absence, the 5'8" Casio stood tall on offense, draining the go-ahead three with 1:44 left in the game to put the Aces ahead, 81-79.
Dela Cruz also came through with big buckets in the final period, including a driving bank shot under 30 seconds to play to preserve Alaska’s win.
Trillo said his team will now be reverting to their once-a-day practice starting Monday and begin what he terms as “cleaning up” some lapses the team had during the past four preseason games.
“We’ll be spending about one-and-a-half hours viewing tapes to see where we need to adjust on offense and defense. Then spend our afternoons starting Monday with our practice,” he added.
Casio led the Aces with 20 points while Dela Cruz and Gabby Espinas added 14 and 11, respectively for a balanced scoring attack.
The Gin Kings dropped to 2-2 this preseason. Barangay Ginebra beat Rain or Shine and the visiting Australia 18-and-under team, but lost to Qatar in their aborted game Monday night at the Ronac gym and then to Alaska.