No comebacks this time.
Alaska leaned on a strong first quarter start and stayed composed in the final three against Barangay Ginebra to roll to an 89-75 blowout win in the Aces' first game after two weeks in the 2021 PBA Philippine Cup at the DHVSU Gym in Bacolor, Pampanga.
Abu Tratter scored 13 points on 5-for-11 shooting and pulled down four rebounds, while Mike DiGregorio added 11 and three triples for the returning Aces, who stepped on the floor for the first time since Sep. 2 after being placed under the league's health and safety protocols.
Maverick Ahanmisi, Jeron Teng and Robbie Herndon all scored 10 each, while Rodney Brondial tallied nine markers, 10 boards and two blocks off the bench for Alaska, which also remained in the hunt for a playoff spot by snapping a two-game losing streak and climbing to ninth in the standings with a 3-4 record.
"It feels really good to be back playing again," head coach Jeff Cariaso said in the post-game presser. "Today we survived, and then tomorrow (Saturday) is another battle that we're going to face. But for today, I'd like to commend the team, the players. They stayed focused, they maintained their composure throughout the whole game.
"We knew that Ginebra is an experienced champion team that we're gonna have to be on point about, and for the most part we were," he added.
Alaska got off to a roaring start and erected a 23-8 advantage by the end of the first period after forcing an ice-cold Gin Kings offense to miss 18 of their first 21 shots from the field.
The Aces continued to put the clamps on the defending champions in the second quarter, where they padded the lead to 21 on their way to holding Ginebra to just 25 first-half points, which equaled the fourth-lowest mark in franchise history.
Ginebra, though, still showed some signs of life and often looked as if it was on the cusp of staging a comeback similar to one it authored against Phoenix last Wednesday.
Stanley Pringle scored 13 straight points in the third period and cut the lead to 13 in the middle of his scoring binge, but Alaska fired back through three triples from Ahanmisi and Gab Banal, as well as a fastbreak finish off Jaycee Marcelino's own steal, to push the lead back to 20, 61-41.
The Gin Kings kept pushing the pace and even chopped the lead down to 12 early in the fourth thanks to a basket down low from Joe Devance, but the Aces snuffed out any attempt of an uprising by Ginebra and had an answer each time, with a Herndon finish on the break restoring the lead to 22, 79-57, with over six minutes left in the match.
Alaska stayed in control after that point to hand to win the first of three consecutive games this week.
Two more matchups await the Aces in a tough slate, as they are slated to face league-leading TNT and the Terrafirma Dyip in back-to-back games over the weekend.
Cariaso, though, is unfazed.
"It's the schedule that's given to us because of the situation. We have to be ready for that, despite it being consecutive games," he remarked. "It doesn't matter to us that we're the only ones [playing three straight games] maybe this conference. It happens, unfortunately. No one wanted it to happen, but there's games to be played, so I think that's where the focus is."
The Aces will need to win at least six games to book an outright ticket to the quarterfinals, which makes their last four games virtually a must-win -- a fact that Cariaso himself acknowledged.
"We really are underwater right now, so we're trying to get up and survive. Our backs are against the wall, to use another analogy," he said. "Our team is not looking at it in the overall status, which is five games. We're looking at it as a per-game basis, as much of a cliché that is. But it really applies to us because we do play consecutive games."
Ginebra, meanwhile, suffered its sixth loss in 10 games, further endangering its title defense.
Pringle led the Gin Kings with 20 points, six boards, four assists and two dimes in the losing effort, and Scottie Thompson was the only other Ginebra player to reach double figures and posted a 17-point, 12-rebound double-double.
Alaska 89 - Tratter 13, Digregorio 11, Herndon 10, Ahanmisi 10, Teng 10, Brondial 9, Banal 8, Marcelino 8, Casio 6, Adamos 4, Ilagan 0, Ebona 0.
Barangay Ginebra 75 - Pringle 20, Thompson 17, Standhardinger 9, Tenorio 8, Ayaay 7, Mariano 6, Devance 4, Tolentino 2, Dillinger 2, Caperal 0, R. Aguilar 0.
Quarters: 23-8, 43-25, 66-52, 89-75.
- Ginebra shot a measly 33.3 percent from the field, hit only 6-of-27 threes, and had more turnovers (18) than assists (16).
- Alaska collected 25 points off of Ginebra's turnovers.
- The Aces are still without big man Yousef Taha, who is still under the league's health and safety protocols.
- Alaska vs. TNT on Saturday, 4:35 p.m.
- Barangay Ginebra vs. Meralco on a date to be determined next week