ALASKA tries to put its disappointing past where it should be as the Aces resume their PBA Philippine Cup campaign on Wednesday night against the Meralco Bolts at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
The Aces are coming off a frustrating year where they failed to get past the quarterfinals of the last all-Filipino conference despite being the No. 2 seed and missed the playoffs in back-to-back tournaments after reaching the postseason eight straight times.
Now, the perennial contenders restart their bid in reclaiming lost glory, beginning with their matchup against the Bolts that tips off at 7 p.m.
“Clean slate, 2018. We have to write our story,” Aces coach Alex Compton said in a recent chat with SPIN.ph. “2017 was a tough year, unbelievably tough year.”
“But I believe there’s some renewal, there’s some excitement. I’m actually pretty excited about us,” the American coach was quick to add. “It’s a new year, new opportunity.”
Having a chance to end 2017 on a positive note, the Aces instead started the league’s 43rd season on the wrong foot, losing their first two games, the latest a 106-98 decision at the hands of TNT KaTropa last December 29 in the final playdate of the year.
The Aces also failed to sustain the gains they made in solid, promising offseason buildup.
“Naiwan namin yung laro dito sa Hoops,” Compton said as he continues to lean on Calvin Abueva and Vic Manuel, and now also standout rookie Jeron Teng. “We just got to bring it. I’m hoping we’re going to leave that in the past – the way we played those two games.”
It’s easier said than done for the Aces, however, as they immediately get tough test in the Bolts, who also lost their last game of 2017, surrendering to San Miguel, 103-97, last December 27 after they started the conference on a winning note.
Bannered by Baser Amer, Chris Newsome, Mike Tolomia, and new addition Niño Canaleta, the Bolts seek to similarly start the year on a high note and get back on the winning track.
Magnolia, tied with Meralco at 1-1, tests the mettle of a Kia side that has a new coach in Ricky Dandan, who takes over from Chris Gavina and tries to lead his team to its first win in three games.