MANILA, Philippines -- Alaska head coach Jeff Cariaso was relieved to see the Aces pull off a slim victory over TerraFirma on Tuesday, as he had been wary of the Dyip despite their poor record in the 2020 PBA Philippine Cup.
TerraFirma entered the game having lost all four of their assignments in the conference, but they imposed their will on the Aces in the first half. The Dyip led by as much as 14 points and were still in control, 52-45, at the half.
"We expected them to come out and be as aggressive as they did. They were awesome defensively, setting the tone in the first half," Cariaso said of the Dyip.
Alaska turned things around with a 34-point third quarter, and they proved to be the better team down the stretch. Veterans Vic Manuel and JVee Casio came up big on offense, and they weathered CJ Perez's attacks late in the game to hold on for a 99-96 win.
The Aces rebounded from a defeat to San Miguel in their previous game, and improved to 4-3 in the conference.
"Once we've adjusted and made a couple minor adjustments for us, we were able to be calm and executed. So I'm happy with how the boys adjusted and was again able to execute in the second half," said Cariaso.
The coach said their team acknowledged the TerraFirm was "due for a win" after dropping their first four games, often in blowout fashion. Cariaso had warned that the Dyip's 0-4 record was not representative of their capabilities, however.
"We came to this game knowing that this is a very good team, a very talented team," he said. "Their talent and how good of a team they are, their record doesn't show it."
"They're a lot better than what their record is. So we came into this game respecting them," he stressed.
The Dyip dropped to 0-5, making them the lone winless team in the league. But they can take some comfort in their most competitive game of the conference to date ahead of a date with Blackwater on Saturday.
For Cariaso, meanwhile, their hard-earned win over the Dyip shows that there can be no off days for any team in the league.
"Was I surprised that they came out hungry and desperate? Not really. Was I surprised that they made big shots? Not really," he said.
"There's never, there's no easy game, there's no easy game. So we expect this kind of game each and every day," he added.