On the 3rd of October, they were playing for the national team Gilas Pilipinas 3.0 against China at the FIBA Asia Championship game. Twenty days later, these brothers shared the hardwood once again – but this time, as rivals.
It’s the second day of the 41st season of the Philippine Basketball Association, Asia’s pioneering professional basketball league. Scheduled to play their first game in the All-Filipino Cup were the Alaska Aces against the TNT Tropang Texters. Both teams made great contributions to the national squad with half of the Gilas roster coming from them. From the Aces were the relentless Calvin Abueva, the streaky shooter Dondon Hontiveros, and the strong solid big man Sonny Thoss. The TNT Tropang Texters’ Jason Castro, who was named as one of the FIBA Asia Mythical Five, was also part of the Gilas squad along with the versatile Ranidel De Ocampo and the athletic forward Matt Ganuelas-Rosser.
The names on the front of their jerseys may now be different but they were seen slapping high-fives, joking around and enjoying each other’s company throught the game. They were there to play and their goals were the same – they wanted to win. Both the Aces and the Tropang Texters are perennial championship contenders and much were expected from them. As they faced off, fans in attendance got to witness a game that can possibly be a championship match-up.
“We always wanna win a championship,” said Aces’ head coach Alex Compton. “I think the ultimate goal is excellence. If we can aim for excellence in every way, then I think results will follow.”
For the Tropang Texters, they are hoping that their offseason additions of first overall draft pick Moala Tautuaa, who played for Gilas at the Jones Cup, and stretch big man Troy Rosario will help them with their championship aspirations.
During the second quarter, Calvin Abueva dove for a loose-ball, gathered himself and scored while getting fouled. The Aces shooters were on fire from the three point line, shooting with efficiency for the entire game. These kinds of plays ended up providing the huge difference in the game – plays that are made with hustle, efficiency and most of all, teamwork. Despite a late push by the Tropang Texters led by De Ocampo’s 26 points and Castro’s 19, the final score was 114 – 98 with the Aces earning their first win of the season.
Although the Tropang Texters registered their first loss of the season, they have shown a glimpse of how potent their team can be with a stacked roster with two promising young rookies.
Meanwhile, the Aces’ impressive game has reminded everyone of how effective they can be when they work as a team. Their motto, “We Not Me,” defines more than how the Aces play together on the court – it defines who they are. For the Never Quit Squad, their journey has just begun and they did it by getting on the right track.