MANILA, Philippines -- Fresh off a hard-earned win over TerraFirma, the Alaska Aces will barely have time to prepare before taking on a familiar foe -- Calvin Abueva and the Phoenix Super LPG Fuel Masters.
Alaska squeaked out a 99-96 triumph over the Dyip on Tuesday night, surviving a pair of CJ Perez attempts in the endgame as well as a last-ditch three-pointer by Eric Camson. On Thursday, they take on the Fuel Masters, who had one extra day of rest after a 114-110 win over NLEX on Monday night.
It was Abueva's first game back in the PBA after a suspension that lasted 16 months, and "The Beast" looked as though he barely missed a beat. Abueva put up 21 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists, while hitting an insurance basket with 44 seconds to play.
"First of all, I'm happy Calvin is back, I really am," said Alaska coach Jeff Cariaso.
Abueva is no stranger to the Alaska franchise. He was drafted second overall by the Aces in 2012, eventually winning Rookie of the Year honors. In his six years with the team, he helped them win one title, and earned Best Player of the Conference honors in the 2016 PBA Commissioner's Cup.
Cariaso noted that it would have been "fair" if Abueva played against all of the PBA teams, and not just the remaining six squads in Phoenix Super LPG's schedule.
Nonetheless, he understands the situation, and welcomes the challenge of taking on a Phoenix Super LPG squad that suddenly became even more dangerous with the addition of "The Beast."
"We're in a situation where Phoenix is already playing well. They added Calvin, it's really giving them that extra spark," he said. "(An) extra All-Star."
"So we're gonna have our hands full," he admitted.
Abueva, for his part, is excited for the upcoming game. "We have (players) sa amin na galing sa kanila," he points out.
Aside from him, Phoenix Super LPG guard RJ Jazul also played for the Aces. Head coach Topex Robinson was a longtime member of the coaching staff. Abueva still has plenty of friends in the team, including veteran forward Vic Manuel.
"Next game laban sa Phoenix, lalong-lalo na nakabalik na si Calvin, talagang siguradong magiging magandang laban 'to," Manuel said.
Cariaso warned, however, that they cannot single out Abueva as he is not the only weapon in Robinson's arsenal. Phoenix Super LPG also features Matthew Wright, the league's leading scorer at 25.5 points per game, and double-double machine Jason Perkins (18.5 points, 10.5 rebounds per game). Justin Chua has been a revelation as well, averaging 14.2 points while shooting over 44% from beyond the arc.
"Our focus is to prepare for them, and for us to be ready," said Cariaso. "You know, Coach Topex put it well when he said Calvin is a part of them. That's how we're also looking at it."
"Is he someone we have to worry about? Of course. You know, he's that type of caliber player," he added. "Hindi naman mag-iiba ang preparation namin. Kasama siya sa preparation."
"We're gonna scout him like we scout all the other players, and we're gonna set up a game plan, hopefully to our favor come game time."
Alaska will carry a 4-3 win-loss record to the game, while Phoenix will try to improve upon its 4-2 win-loss slate. The game is set for 4 p.m. at the Angeles University Foundation Gym in Angeles City, Pampanga.