By Drei Christopher Villanueva
Resiliency and a “no quit” attitude.
Those aspects have characterized the Alaska Aces’ last four runs to the PBA championship rounds over the last two seasons. Those qualities were evident in the early part of the ongoing Philippine Cup, despite the team’s being handicapped at the beginning of the season minus injured frontliners Calvin Abueva, veteran Sonny Thoss and Noy Baclao.
As a result of the decimated lineup, the Aces lost their first two games of the conference. In the first, the Never Quit squad pushed NLEX to the limit before losing in overtime, but were unable to overcome their opponents.
The second game saw the Aces more banged up: outside of the three hurting players, Vic Manuel and Ping Exciminiano were suspended for one game after playing in an invitational league (larong labas). Despite missing five key players, Alaska held on until the final buzzer but were simply overpowered by defending Philippine Cup champions San Miguel Beer.
Everything changed the moment Abueva returned to the lineup for the Aces’ third game, having recovered from his quadriceps injury to deliver a double-double performance of 22 points and 11 rebounds to deal GlobalPort their first loss of the tournament.
“The thing that I’m most proud of our team is their resiliency,” said Aces Head Coach Alex Copton. “I don’t really sense quit or give up in them on things go against us sometimes in terms of who can make plays, make loose balls, we talked about loose balls a lot.”
The following game, Abueva worked with his teammates to fight back from a nine-point deficit in the last two minutes to score the win over Meralco.
Compton said he felt proud of his team’s typifying the kind of character he envisions for the team: “No lead is safe under the last two minutes. When we were down nine I was telling the guys, hey, we have done this before. Just play the right way.”
Image source: Rappler