By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
CAME OUT “flat” in their PBA Philippine Cup debut, the Alaska Aces try to do better when they trek back to the court today in league action at the Mall of Asia Arena.
To take on the Columbian Dyip in the opener at 4:30 p.m., the Aces look to bounce back after their maiden game in the season-opening Philippine Basketball Association tournament on Feb. 3 that saw them struggle for much of the contest en route to bowing to the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters, 85-72.
Playing sans key stalwarts Vic Manuel, Simon Enciso, JVee Casio and Kevin Racal due to various injuries, Alaska tried its best to make the most of the situation and competed but just could not sustain it for the full stretch.
Alaska coach Alex Compton said it was something that they were somehow expecting being undermanned but nonetheless is not using it as an excuse not to compete each time.
“We’re not just there yet. We had a very short preseason by choice because we wanted to give the guys more time to rest. We felt physically we needed it. Obviously we have a lot of injuries and we did not want to add to that by rushing everybody back. And we have a long ways to go,” said Mr. Compton, whose team was one of two squads — the other being the Magnolia Hotshots Pambansang Manok — which had a shorter break from last season, having played in the PBA Governors’ Cup finals all the way to the middle of December.
The Aces lost to the Hotshots in the finals.
Without four of their key players, the Alaska coach said they have to make a lot of adjustments on the fly.
“We miss their (injured players) firepower, of course, but we still a have dugout full of PBA players. We are just not there yet and we have to claw our way back and get better as the tournament moves along,” said Mr. Compton, who also set the record straight that he is still the team’s coach after talk spread that he was relieved of his coaching duties in the lead-up to their Philippine Cup debut.
Meanwhile, out to derail Alaska while at the same time padding its cause is Columbian (2-3).
The Dyip have lost back-to-back, the last one coming on Feb. 2 against the Barangay Ginebra San Miguel Kings, 97-85, and are looking to get back on the winning track.
Leading the way for Columbian is top rookie pick CJ Perez, who has been good for 17.8 points, 7.6 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game.
Jackson Corpuz and Reden Celda are chipping in 13 points apiece with RaShawn McCarthy and Jay-R Reyes the other Dyip players scoring in double digits.
Playing in the main game today at 7 p.m., meanwhile, are the defending champions San Miguel Beermen (2-3) against the Blackwater Elite (1-3).
In other news, big man JP Erram of the NLEX Road Warriors was named PBA player of the week for the period Jan. 28 to Feb. 3, which was punctuated by a solid outing against the Meralco Bolts where they won, 87-83, on Feb. 2.
In said game, Mr. Erram, an offseason acquisition by the Road Warriors, finished with all-around numbers of 12 points, eight rebounds, seven assists and a game-high five blocks.
In winning the award, given by the league press corps, Mr. Erram beat Phoenix’s Calvin Abueva, Barangay Ginebra’s Greg Slaughter, and Rain or Shine’s James Yap and Javee Mocon.