Alaska bids goodbye to PBA with loss to NLEX

Camille B. Naredo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 19 2022 08:46 PM | Updated as of Mar 19 2022 09:53 PM

The Alaska Aces have played their last game in the PBA. PBA Images.
The Alaska Aces have played their last game in the PBA. PBA Images.

MANILA — The Alaska Aces' 35-season run in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) ended Saturday night, with a loss to the NLEX Road Warriors in the quarterfinals of the 2021 PBA Governors' Cup.

Alaska entered the playoffs as the No. 7 seed after compiling a 6-5 slate in the elimination round, and was the underdog against No. 2 NLEX (8-3).

The Aces needed to beat the Road Warriors to stay alive in the conference, but couldn't get the job done as they absorbed a 96-80 defeat instead.

The Road Warriors bounced back from a frustrating loss Wednesday and claimed the last spot in the Governors' Cup Final 4, joining top seed Magnolia, No. 4 Meralco and No. 6 Barangay Ginebra.

The result marked the end of Alaska's participation in the professional league. In February, they announced that the Governors' Cup will be the franchise's final conference in the PBA.

"All good things come to an end, and at the end of the season, it will be our 35th and final season in the PBA," team owner Fred Uytengsu said at the time.

Alaska joined the PBA in 1986, winning 14 championships including a Grand Slam in the 1996 season.

The Aces had wanted to punctuate their "Last Dance" by winning the franchise's 15th PBA title -- a goal that Uytengsu set for the team when he announced their exit from the league.

"I am not throwing in the towel yet," he said in a press conference on Feb. 16.

Alaska had a 3-2 win-loss record at the time, and went 3-3 the rest of the way. They lost their last two elimination round assignments, to Phoenix Super LPG and Magnolia, but still made it to the quarterfinals.

In a bid to extend their campaign, the Aces gambled by bringing a new import in Mark Cornelius Saint Fort to replace Olu Ashaolu for their game against NLEX.

Ashaolu averaged 18.6 points, 11.6 rebounds, and 3.1 assists in the elimination round, but was limited by an injury in their later games after a strong start.

Saint Fort put up 14 points and 7 rebounds against NLEX in Alaska's swan song.

Alaska's last championship came in the 2013 PBA Commissioner's Cup.

The team's future remains up in the air. At least three firms have already expressed their intent to purchase the franchise last month. If a sale does not push through, the franchise reverts back to the PBA.