Photo from PBA

Alaska coach Jeffrey Cariaso hailed his team’s mental resolve that translated into a victory over Barangay Ginebra San Miguel in their first game back from COVID-19 protocols.

Cariaso said the situation that saw the Aces being out of action for more than two weeks after being placed under the league’s health and safety guidelines presented plenty of challenges going into the match against the defending Philippine Cup champion Gin Kings.

But Alaska played as if there was no rust and leaned on a hot start and a defensive effort that resulted in an 89-75 win to move eighth place in the standings with a 3-4 record.

“I think we did the best we can with the given situation,” said Cariaso, who did admit that Alaska had only eight players in practice on the eve of the match while the rest were waiting to be cleared.

“It was very challenging because when you’re losing bodies at practice, it’s hard to get them into like a game-like situation, game-like preparation,” he continued. “It’s really just them just constantly just trying to be ready on their own, and being ready for game play. That was I think the biggest challenge. The mental part is a big part of this.”

The win over the slumping Gin Kings gave the Aces a good start to a grueling schedule of having games in three consecutive days. Their next meeting is against the TNT Tropang Giga, who won their last outings to secure the top seed and twice-to-beat advantage in the quarterfinals.

Alaska wraps up the stretch with a match against the Terrafirma Dyip, who have dropped three in a row following a three-game winning run in the first week of the restart.

While the schedule obviously does not favor the Aces given the fatigue factor, Cariaso said his team has no choice to deal with the situation in a positive way.

“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,” Cariaso said. “It doesn’t matter to us that we’re the only ones 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.”

Source: Manila Bulletin (