PLAYER movements and a coaching change marked a season of transition for Alaska in 2019. On the court, the Aces struggled and failed to contend for a title. One Alaska player, however, finally shone on the international stage to further enhance his tag as one of the top stars in the country.
Here are some of the highlights for Alaska in 2019.
Early exit in playoffs
The 2019 season saw the Alaska Aces suffer playoff defeats in the first round. The Aces ended up in the last two seeds in the quarterfinals in all three conferences, including two eighth-seed finishes. The closest the Aces got to advancing to the next round was when they forced top-seed TNT to a rubber match following a 108-72 win, only to fall in the rubber match, 104-93.
Compton resigns, Cariaso takes over
The Aces made a change at the top when former Alaska player Jeff Cariaso was appointed head coach in lieu of Alex Compton, who stepped down after five years in charge helm. An assistant coach before his appointment, Cariaso played for Alaska from 1995 to 1997 and again from 2004 to 2010 where he also won Rookie of the Year honors.
Cariaso took over at the start of the Governors’ Cup where the Aces placed seventh with a 5-6 card. The Aces eventually lost to Meralco, 94-84, in the quarterfinals.
Baclao suffers season-ending injury
Injuries also hounded the Aces campaign, the biggest to Noy Baclao who went down with a ruptured patella tendon last August that forced him to miss the entire Governors’ Cup. Baclao will be out for eight to 10 months.
Banchero traded to Magnolia
New faces came in following several trades during the season. Ping Exciminiano was the first to be traded after he was moved to Rain or Shine for Maverick Ahanmisi, followed by the move that sent Carl Bryan Cruz to Blackwater for Abu Tratter.
The biggest move Alaska made came during the Governors’ Cup when starting guard Chris Banchero was traded to Magnolia in exchange for Rodney Brondial and Robbie Herndon, ending Banchero’s five-year run with the Aces.
Alaska was not yet done making player movements during the holidays after Jake Pascual was sent to Phoenix Pulse for a draft pick.
Vic Manuel makes it to Gilas, wins SEA Games gold
As the team made movements throughout the season, one player that was retained was Vic Manuel, who reaffirmed the label of the team’s franchise player by staying put. Aside from a solid campaign in the 2019 season, Manuel was rewarded with a spot in the Tim Cone-coached Gilas Pilipinas side in the Southeast Asian Games, a decision that was hailed by fans.
Manuel put on a solid performance, emerging as one of the consistent players of Gilas in the run to the gold medal.