KIA coach Chris Gavina heaps praise on players for a change after gallant stand in loss to Alaska
Chris Gavina said Kia showed they can compete against anybody with the fight it showed against Alaska. Dante Peralta

THIS time, coach Chris Gavina had nothing but love for the KIA Picanto.

The Fil-Am mentor lauded the effort shown by his team after almost pulling off the upset against Alaska Sunday night in the PBA Governors Cup.

The Picanto had the Aces on the ropes until they imploded down the stretch and let Alaska get away with a 102-94 win at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

But despite losing for the ninth straight game in the season-ending meet, Gavina heaped praises on the Picanto for playing their hearts out.

"I couldn't have been more proud of my guys tonight with their type of game. This was a game I could take," he said afterwards.

[SeeĀ Alaska stays in playoff race with third straight victory, keeps Kia winless]

Gavina's mood was in stark contrast last week when he lashed at this team following a 21-point blowout at the hands of Blackwater.

"Majority of the games I couldn't take because there's no effort, there's no heart."

Going to the game against Alaska, Gavina though felt the Picanto are going to show up ready.

"The way guys had their mental approach coming in, i knew we were gonna play well," he said.

[See Abueva's antics gets best of Kia import Johnson]

Import Geron Johnson led the Picanto with 39 points, Philip Paniamogan had 12 while three others in Nicholas Elorde, Mark Yee, and Glenn Khobuntin all finished in double figures.

"I told the guys that they just showed against a really tough Alaska team that we can compete," said Gavina.

"I told them, you guys keep believing, turn this corner, and stay together, and you guys will be able to compete against everybody."

Follow the writer on Twitter: @gerardmos