ALASKA took coach Jeffrey Cariaso's words to heart and pulled the rug from under Magnolia Ang Pambansang Manok, 87-81, Saturday in the PBA Philippine Cup at the Smart 5G-powered Angeles University Foundation Sports Arena.
The Aces stood toe-to-toe with the Hotshots on the defensive end while Jeron Teng and a revitalized Jayvee Casio took the lead role on the other end as they finally pulled it through on their third game in the Pampanga bubble.
What makes the win more impressive was the fact Alaska played minus the injured Kevin Racal and late arrival Maverick Ahanmisi and was still trying to find its usual lethal form absent in the first two games against TNT and Meralco.
"I really feel we're still out of rhythm, our flow is still inconsistent," said Cariaso.
"Just going to the game, we didn't know what to expect, to be honest with you. We just tried to be at our best. I challenged the guys that we just need to better at what we do. The guys know they are a lot better defensively than the first two games so we just hope to improve as the conference goes on."
All those handicaps proved to be just a little hindrance as Teng finished with 19 points and six rebounds while Casio added 17 points, 16 above his tournament average, and, more surprisingly, also had a huge block in the endgame.
Abu Tratter had 10 points and nine rebounds and Mike Digregorio also had 10 points laced by a crucial triple and two charities in the dying seconds.
The loss denied Magnolia a second straight win and dropped it to the same 1-2 card of its latest tormentor.
Five Hotshots, led by Mark Barroca's 16 points, scored in double figures, but they could not sustain a good start and maintain a 61-53 third quarter lead before failing to match the Aces' tenacity when it mattered most.
After pulling off a tournament-high 12 steals in a 103-100 escape over NLEX last Wednesday the Hotshots had 10 this time. To no avail.
Jio Jalalon's twinner put Magnolia within 79-80, but Digregorio beat the shotclock with a triple to give Alaska more space, 83-79. He then capped his game with a pair of free throws to make it 85-81 before Teng sealed the win with two more freebies following Casio's block on the much bigger Jackson Corpuz. (NC)
Alaska 87 - Teng 19, Casio 17, Tratter 10, Digregorio 10, Manuel 9, Herndon 7, Galliguez 6, Ebona 5, Brondial 4, ahanmisi 0, Marcelino 0, Ayaay 0, Publico 0, Andrada 0.
Magnolia 81 - Barroca16, Lee 14, Banchero 13, Jalalon 11, Dionisio 10, Sangalang 8, Dela Rosa 7, Corpuz 2, Melton 0, Reavos 0, Calisaan 0, Abundo 0, Pascual 0, Saitanan 0.
Quarters:21-29, 43-45, 62-64, 87-81.