It's not every day Alaska team owner Fred Uytengsu talks to the Aces. But when he does, it normally conjures magic.
Uytengsu gave his team a pep talk during halftime of Alaska's 95-85 win over NorthPort at the Smart Araneta Coliseum on Sunday.
Earlier in the game, the Aces didn't look like they were playing the way they have been in previous games. Behind Rashad Woods and Stanley Pringle, the Batang Pier outscored Alaska in the second period, 32-17, to take a six-point lead heading into the break.
It wasn't a pleasing sight for the team owner, whose squad was gunning for a twice-to-beat advantage in the playoffs. That's why he thought he had to intervene.
"They worked very hard to get to a position they're in right now and it would be a shame to lose that opportunity with the twice-to-beat if we didn't play the type of game that we're known for. And I said I'm sure you're thinking that (NorthPort) is not that good a team because they only won two games despite the talent they have," Uytengsu told reporters through a phone call.
"Look at the score at halftime, they're killing us. So, either you go out and play our brand of game, play with the pride of Alaska basketball or you know you gonna be very sorry at the end of this game and we have to do it the hard way. So, either go out, play our game or don't show up."
That message definitely got across.
Alaska coach Alex Compton said that changed the complexion of the game as the Aces turned to its best weapon -- defense -- in the second half on the way to the victory that clinched them a win-once advantage.
"At halftime Fred came in and talked to the team. It was short, it was powerful. and the guys responded," Compton said. "He came in and about one and a half minutes laid down the message that I think changed the game for us... and I'm grateful for that. It makes my job easier, and then the guys responded.
Compton made special mention of Simon Enciso, who made things rough for NorthPort main man Pringle, who was held scoreless in the final 24 minutes of the match. But he was also quick to give credit to the rest of the team.
"I thought Simon was terrific defensively in the second half against Stanley. He kept coming, forced some stops. I thought our team defense was much better," he said.
"Stanley is, depending on the day, I think he's the hardest guard to cover 1-on-1. He's so shifty, he's an excellent shooter, he can get a stepback, he can get to the basket, he's got such a variety of moves. The guys helped out and Simon did a great job in the first 16 minutes of the second half and Chris (Banchero) kind of finished it off."
He added, "But more than Xs and Os, I don't know what it looked like to you watching but I think the message that Fred sent was received. It affected our play in the very positive play and I'm grateful."