MANILA, Philippines—Alaska didn’t have to look far to draw that extra push in its all-important playoff clash with NLEX on Wednesday.
A loss to the Road Warriors would’ve been the Aces’ final PBA game after 35 seasons.
It looked like it early on when Alaska faced a 16-point hole in the second quarter before the Aces found a way to climb back en route to a 93-79 win.
“We didn’t want it to be our last game. That in itself is a challenge and a motivation all on its own,” said Alaska head coach Jeffrey Cariaso.
“So we tried to use that to motivate us even more, for us to be focused even more, for us to be ready even more, play together even more.”
With their season slipping away, the Aces mounted a 20-2 run to reclaim the lead before pulling away in the second half.
Defense played a big factor in Alaska’s comeback.
“I think when we became more physical defensively, we were moving our feet better, we weren’t giving up easy fouls, that allowed the offense to settle in, for it to be a little bit easier,” said Cariaso.
New import Mark Saint Fort didn’t shoot the ball well but did just enough to help Alaska stay alive.
Saint Fort, who replaced the injured Olu Ashaolu, finished with team-highs of 17 points and 14 rebounds. Jeron Teng added 16 while Abu Tratter also posted a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds.
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