ALASKA rookie Chris Banchero played his PBA career-game on Wednesday when he helped Alaska rallied back from the jaws of defeat to beat San Miguel in overtime for a 1-0 head start in the Philippine Cup finals.
The six-foot guard out of Seattle Pacific University banged in 16 points on 7-of-10 shooting from the field in the Aces’ magical come-from-behind win, 88-82, in Game One of the best-of-seven series.
The impressive numbers however, have nothing to do with playing against his former team in the Asean Basketball League (ABL).
“Not at all (motivated against the Beermen). I just treat this like any other game,” said Banchero when asked if he wanted to prove something to San Miguel, the same ballclub he carried to the ABL championship last year following its three-game sweep of the Indonesia Warriors in the finals.
“Other than being in the Finals, you just have to come out and play,” he added.
The Beermen actually had the chance to tap Banchero with the no. 3 pick in last year’s Rookie Draft, but opted to use it to get the services of San Sebastian’s Ronald Pascual.
Banchero ended up with Alaska as the no.5 overall pick.
But the 25-year-old Fil-Italian guard refused to take the credit for his solid offensive game, citing the contribution everyone in the team did, particularly Alaska’s frontline.
“We didn't play so well in the first quarter, but after that, we really started playing defense like we usually do. That was the key to the game. Our bigs played very well also,” he said.
Since joining the franchise, Banchero said he has learned to embrace the brand of Alaska basketball, which symbolizes playing hard-nosed defense for 48 minutes.
The good-looking rookie guard admitted the Aces started flat in the series opener after being held down to just five points, tying a franchise record.
But that hardly affected the Aces as they launched a furious second half offensive to pull off the come-from-behind victory.
“We just started playing Alaska basketball, better team defense. That's where it came down to. After that, we came together and played well from there,” he said.
Game Two is set on Friday with Alaska gunning for a 2-0 lead against San Miguel at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.