TIM Cone was a picture of a relieved man at the end of Barangay Ginebra's game against Alaska on Sunday morning (Manila time).
“We hung on for dear life,” said the two-time grand slam coach after Ginebra survived a big Alaska fightback, 93-92, to book its first win in the PBA Philippine Cup at a jampacked Al Wasl Sports Club in Dubai.
Cone could only heave a sigh of relief after the Gin Kings blew a 19-point first half lead and found themselves trailing the Aces by a point, 91-92, after Vic Manuel's drive down the final seconds.
Ginebra needed six clutch free throws from Greg Slaughter - including two on a controversial foul called on Nonoy Baclao with 4.1 seconds left - to pull off its first win in three games this season.
"We had a beautiful first half, but just as ugly second half,” admitted Cone. “The guys are still not confident with what they’re doing, they have stretches where they play beautifully, but also they have stretches where they look really ugly.
“Alaska is always so good at coming back. Their pressure is relentless and tough to overcome.”
Cone, though, was ready to move on after the close call, expressing confidence Ginebra will eventually become comfortable with the triangle offense he has put in place.
“But I think we’ll smooth that out in the coming games. In the meantime, I’ll applaud our guys for finding a way to pull that win out, and we’ll move on from there. I’m all about moving,” added Cone.
Alaska coach Alex Compton, on the other hand, didn't sound too disappointed after the Aces lost the second of back-to-back games in the Mideast outpost. The Aces beat Mahindra on Saturday morning.
Surprisingly, he also made no mention of the controversial call on Baclao that led to Slaughter's marginal points from the free throw line.
“It was a heck of a game. Ginebra came out and really beat us up from the start. They executed well, gave us some looks we haven’t seen them use before, and they defended us well and got a big lead,” said a gracious Compton.
“I was exceptionally proud of the heart the Alaska players showed in the second half,” said Compton. “They did not give up and we had a few chances to win the game.”
Ginebra (93) - Slaughter 27, Aguilar 23, Tenorio 14, Caguioa 11, Thompson 8, Marcelo 4, Borndial 2, Devance 2, Ellis 1, Mercado 1.
Alaska (92) – Abueva 23, Hontiveros 15, Manuel 14, Jazul 9, Baclao 6, Menk 6, Baguio 4, Exciminiano 4, Thoss 4, Casio 3, dela Cruz 2, dela Rosa 2, Banchero 0, Magat 0.
Quarterscores: 24-21, 56-37, 75-66, 93-92