By Leobert Julian A. de la Peña
The Alaska Aces made sure they’ll open their 2022 campaign with a huge bang following the news of their franchise’s retirement from the PBA when they outlasted the Rain or Shine Elastopainters, 80-74, during the Governor’s Cup.
Eager to finish strong in their last season of the Philippine’s professional league before their exit, head coach Jeff Cariaso and his team came out with a sense of urgency and immediately took the lead.
Swingman Jeron Teng delivered early buckets for the Aces as Gabe Norwood and the rest of the Rain or Shine defense just couldn’t cool down the former De La Salle University superstar.
Alaska’s super import Olu Ashaolu joined the offensive party and just man-handled the paint to end the game with another double-double of 23 points and 17 rebounds.
However, the resilient Elastopainters didn’t’ back down from the challenge and trimmed the Alaska lead to just two, 74-72, in the last two minutes of the ball game.
Ashaolu once again delivered in the clutch and helped extend Alaska’s lead to four, 76-72, after tipping a missed basket with 1:12 left.
Alaska’s steady guard Maverick Ahanmisi then dealt the finishing blow after crossing over Beau Belga and converted a tough layup that sealed them the victory.
The win improved the Aces’ record to four wins and two losses while Rain or Shine remained in the middle of the rankings with three wins and four losses.
“There’s a lot of anxiety, there’s a lot of uncertainty, so right now what I’m telling the guys is to kinda just remain in the moment,” said Cariaso.