ALASKA hopes the third’s time the charm for the team as the Aces seek to put an end to their title-less campaigns in three finals meetings against old rival San Miguel.
Young stars Calvin Abueva and Chris Banchero both expressed how it would be a big letdown for the franchise should it go home empty-handed again in the ongoing Smart Bro-PBA Philippine Cup finals opposite the Beermen, who denied them of a championship twice last season.
“We kinda have a rivalry going with San Miguel now, hopefully we can get one here,” said Banchero, his words later echoed by teammate Abueva.
“Pang third na finals na ito, kaya sana makuha na namin,” Abueva said.
The two played key roles as the Aces took the opener of the best-of-seven title series Sunday night, 100-91. Abueva and Banchero combined for nine of the team’s 34 points in a blazing fourth quarter where Alaska fought back from a 78-66 deficit.
Banchero finished with 15 points – seven in the final period – had eight rebounds and three assists, while Abueva had 12 – seven in the first quarter – added 13 rebounds, and two assists as the two moved to settle an old score against the defending champion Beermen.
San Miguel beat Alaska in a grueling seven-game series in last year’s all-Filipino title match, and then completed a 4-0 sweep of the Aces in the season-ending Governors Cup.
Banchero said it's gonna be a strikeout for Alaska should it lose to San Miguel anew.
“Nobody wants to go to the championship three times, and not come out with one,” he stressed.
Despite getting the headway against the Beermen, the sophomore guard said there’s no time for the Aces to let their guards down, aware how they also won Game One of the Philippine Cup last year and still found themselves at the losing end.
“We need to lock in, we need to play a lot better basketball (for us to win),” said Banchero.