Alaska owner Wilfred Uytengsu: 'We lost game of basketball, but won game of respect'
Alaska owner Wilfred Uytengsu says he's excited to see what the future holds for Calvin Abueva and the rest of the Aces. Jerome Ascano

FROM where he usually sat in the Big Dome stands behind the Alaska bench, all that was infront of team owner Wilfred Uytengsu was a sea of celebration by a San Miguel Beer team that won the championship at his team's expense.

But once he looked beyond the glee in the faces of the Beermen players, coaches and officials as well as the gloom that enveloped the Aces bench, Uytengsu still saw an Alaska team he can be mighty proud of.

"Great heart and character," Uytengsu told Spin.ph, a day after the Aces lost to the Beermen, 78-80, at the end of a PBA Philippine Cup Finals that should rank among the most memorable in the league's 40 years.

"I'm proud of how our team played the entire conference and in the finals," the flamboyant owner added.

Uytengsu has enjoyed a great run with the Alaska side coached by Tim Cone and led by Johnny Abarrientos that was labeled as the 'team of the nineties' and saw the franchise win its last championship with Luigi Trillo in 2013.

But he no doubt has fallen in love with this Alaska team that was hardly given a second look at the start of the season yet came within a three-point basket of winning it all in the dying seconds of Game Seven.

Part of that was perhaps because he didn't expect to see the team do this well this soon, at a time when the players were still in a period of transition from the surprise end of Trillo's time in charge to Alex Compton.

Yet in only his second conference in charge, Compton, the Philippine-born American guard who was denied a chance to play in the PBA as a local player, started to make his mark as a coach by weening the Aces away from the triangle offense of the Cone and Trillo era and establishing a new identity for the team.

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The end result was a scrappy Alaska side that pressed for 48 minutes and ran fastbreaks at every opportunity; a fearless team that was hard to beat and truly fun to watch.

It was a style that suited the talent Alaska had in its stable.

"Alex has been a revelation. He's just getting established," Uytengsu said. "Alex is a great communicator and has brought the team a long way in a short time."

[See Austria admits he was 'so nervous, so afraid' at the height of Alaska comeback]

Uytengsu also had special words for 'The Beast' Calvin Abueva, without doubt the motor that keeps Alaska running. But the team owner was quick to point out that the former NCAA MVP is just one piece in a team, punctuating his remark with Alaska's #WeNotMe hashtag.

"Calvin is a talented player, but he's just one part of our team. Ping (Exciminiano) and (Chris) Banchero played great defense as well and forced many turnovers, Sonny (Thoss) played great defense on (June Mar) Fajardo despite giving up three inches and 50 pounds.

"Dondon (Hontiveros), Tony (dela Cruz) and (Eric) Menk played like they were 10 years younger. RJ (Jazul) was consistent and while JV (Casio) struggled, he never quit."

As heartbreaking as the loss was, Uytengsu said he was heartened by what he saw from this new Alaska team that thrice overcame double-digit deficits in the finals and came within a heartbeat of overhauling a 23-point SMB lead in Game Seven - and excited to see how it develops in the months to come.

"We lost the game of basketball but we won the game of respect," said the Alaska owner. "Looking forward to the future."

Alaska owner Wilfred Uytengsu says he's proud of the Aces' 'great heart and character.' Jerome Ascano
Alaska owner Wilfred Uytengsu says he's proud of the Aces' 'great heart and character.' Jerome Ascano

Follow the writer on Twitter: @spinph