AFTER all is said and done, Luigi Trillo is just proud of what the Alaska Aces achieved on a season that came to an end when they were eliminated by San Mig Coffee in the Governors Cup quarterfinal playoffs on Friday night.
Trillo said he can’t ask for more the way the Aces played through adversity especially in the season-ending tournament, where they dragged the second-seeded Mixers to a sudden-death before going down, 83-73.
The loss ended the Aces’ bid for a back-to-back championship after winning the Commissioner’s Cup.
“This is my first season and really, I thank you guys for this year. I’m just proud of the guys,” said Trillo, who officially assumed the head coaching job at the start of the season after taking over the team from Joel Banal on an interim basis during last year’s Governors Cup.
Despite the Aces’ early exit, Trillo said the season remains a good one for him and the team one season after finishing with only 11 wins.
Under Trillo’s first full season with the Aces, the team made the semifinals of the Philippine Cup and then bagged the championship of the mid-season conference.
Unfortunately, they struggled in the season-ending tournament where they ended up as the seventh-seeded team at the end of the eliminations and facing the gargantuan task of beating the Mixers twice in a row to advance to the semifinals.
They won their first meeting with a come-from-behind 112-105 victory, and appeared ready to repeat over the Mixers when they rallied from 12-points down to close the gap at 70-74 with under two minutes to play.
But they wilted under the pressure, committing key turnovers and missing free throws down the stretch.
“You can’t win them all,” said Trillo, “But we brought the (San Mig) lead down to four with two minutes left. Then we missed a couple of free throws.”
Trillo, who steered Alaska to its first league title in the post-Tim Cone era, said he was satisfied with the play of import Wendell McKines.
The 6-foot-5 American banger compiled a 20-20 output of 24 points and 20 rebounds, but missed seven free throws in the final period that cost the Aces the game - and eventually ended their season.
“Wendell missed some free throws, so it’s tough. But at the end of the day, when he’s inside, you feel for him,” said the young Alaska mentor.
“I’m not closing the door on him (to come back next year). He works hard, he’s 25, and he came after a conference where we were champions and Robert Dozier won the Best Import.
“He missed some free throws here, but then again he’s had some good games,” he added.