IT’S arguable that Alaska overachieved in the PBA Philippine Cup with the way they performed in the Finals.
Everyone might agree but the Aces themselves.
“And I mean this in no bitterness because I agreed with many of your predictions; we were predicted fifth to eighth this conference and we’re basically a few free throws from winning the all-Filipino,” Aces coach Alex Compton said after his team lost to the Beermen the deciding Game Seven, 80-78, on Wednesday.
“But you don’t get this close at this point and feel successful,” the American mentor was quick to add.
[See San Miguel Beer quenches title thirst by beating Alaska in drama-filled Game Seven]
Still, Compton feels deeply proud of his wards for taking the formidable Beermen to the limit by pulling off three amazing come-from-behind victories — and almost a fourth one.
“In the midst of the tremendous pain, there’s still this tremendous pride from their effort in what they’ve done,” he said.
Everything starts in training for an aging team, half of which is at least 30 years old, Compton stressed.
“I have required a lot from everybody from our team. We have, I believe, the hardest practices in the league; I’m not sure, because other teams are really pushing their guys.
“But they (Aces) brought it and killed it. So I feel sick and sad that I didn’t get us the shots to win the game.”
It was from the charity stripe where the Aces failed to convert in the do-or-die encounter, especially at crunch time, making just 10 of their 25 attempts or 40 percent. They shot 9-for-22 from the 15-foot line in Game Six.
And that’s what baffles Compton, a fine free-throw shooter during his playing days but who couldn’t make his players shoot as accurately.
“I can’t play defense to save my life. And we’re a great defensive team. And I’m a career ninety-percent free-throw shooter and we (shot poorly from the foul line).”
Nevertheless, the Aces have Compton’s full confidence and faith.
“I love them. There’s not another group of guys I’d rather coach. They didn’t give up.”
Compton hopes the Aces sustain their gains with import DJ Covington in the Commissioner’s Cup that promptly unfurls next week.
“So much depends on imports and things swing so much with the import, so I hope that we can continue to play with the same amount of gusto and effort, refusal to quit no matter what the odds.”
“I believe that’s the identity of the team.”