MANILA, Philippines – Even Alaska head coach Alex Compton did not expect such a huge victory over the Barangay Ginebra Gin Kings in their 2016-17 PBA Philippine Cup showdown on Sunday night at the Big Dome.
What was anticipated to be a tight, nip-and-tuck game instead turned into a blowout, with Alaska racing to a 59-44 lead at the half then outscoring Ginebra, 30-16, in the third quarter to completely pull away.
The Aces led by as much as 30 points and only a late surge by the Gin Kings against the Alaska reserves in the fourth quarter made the final score closer.
"I'm actually a little surprised with the result," Compton admitted after the Aces completed the 101-86 win that hiked their record to 3-2. "I was prepared to be radically stressed out for about two hours."
He was still stressed, Compton said, especially when Alaska struggled to score against the zone and then committed turnovers late in the game that helped the Gin Kings trim the lead. But for most of the contest, and especially in the third quarter, the coach had no complaints.
"I really thought there were large stretches where our guys' defensive activity, in the half court, particularly – I know that we are known for pressing -- but in the half court, we actually did a great job," Compton noted.
"We don't always do a good job in the half curt, but we actually did a really good job of scrambling and taking away shots," he added.
Ahead of their showdown, Compton was especially concerned about the Ginebra offense, which he saw worked to great effect against Mahindra last December 16. The Gin Kings may not have been running the famed Triangle, but their offense was still, in Compton's words, "magical."
"Everybody was touching the ball, everybody was getting great shots, everybody was scoring," he said. "It was cause for great concern."
That offense ground to a halt against Alaska, however. The Gin Kings shot only 39% from the field, and committed 23 turnovers that led to 26 points for Alaska. The Aces had 22 turnovers of their own, but most of those came in the fourth quarter when the game was already in their hands.
"I'm so proud of our guys' defensive energy," said Compton, whose players held LA Tenorio scoreless and forced the normally steady floor general to commit five turnovers. Only rookie Kevin Ferrer (19 points) played a solid game for Ginebra. Japeth Aguilar had 12 points on 5-of-10 shooting but failed to get a single rebound.
"I don't know for how long, but it felt like we held (down) for a long time, and that was the game. They came back in the fourth, but there was that stretch in the third where it just felt like we were defending them," he said. "We were everywhere. I'm really proud of my guys."
Alaska has now won three straight games, and is part of a five-team logjam at third place. Compton hopes they can build on their victory over the Gin Kings as the season progresses.
"What we need to do is to be able to start strong, sustain it, and finish," he said. "I think that's what the best teams do."
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