Coach Jeff Cariaso and the Alaska Aces finally found that long-awaited breakthrough in the PBA Governors' Cup at Rain or Shine's expense, 78-71, on Sunday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Franko House led the Aces with a monster-double of 22 points and 23 rebounds, but the team leaned on a returning Jeron Teng for most of the fourth quarter as they stymied an Elasto Painters offense that gave them some fits in the clutch.
Down 10 entering the payoff period, Rain or Shine rolled out an 11-2 run topped by an Ed Daquioag three to pull within one, 64-63 with about seven minutes to go. Alaska found answers in the form of Teng as he scored six in a 10-2 Aces counter that put them ahead 72-65.
Teng continued to come up big in the final minute to fend off the Elasto Painters, who continued to creep closer. He first nailed a one-hander that gave Alaska a 74-66 cushion with 57 seconds left, then dished out an assist off an inbound play that left JVee Casio wide open for a layup that put the game out of reach with 17 seconds to go, 76-70.
Teng, who was out of commission in the first five games due to a hamstring injury, finished with 18 points on 7-for-16 shooting, nine rebounds, two assists and a block in 27 minutes off the bench.
"I think it's clear that we kinda lacked someone in that small forward position that can defend, that can rebound and that can be trusted to score. Nothing against the guys coming off the bench playing major minutes -- MJ Ayaay, Abel Galliguez, guys really coming off and doing their best," said Cariaso. "There were even two games that I fielded Yutien Andrada. That's how much we were lacking in that position. Big help that Jeron is back."
More than just Teng's return, Cariaso is also happy that Alaska was able to snap a tough five-game slide for the team's first win under his tenure.
"Just to get that monkey off your back, you know? Today was a day that I think, for once, we played a solid four quarters. Because the previous games, there was only one quarter we played OK, and we're lucky to have played two good quarters. For today, the discipline was sustained for four quarters " Cariaso said.
The coach also admitted that his first win as Aces coach meant 'a lot' to him.
"I think I just wanted to get that first win to get it out of your system. The more you didn't get it, the more pressure I put on myself. It was only me putting the pressure on myself. But I think I'll never forget the words of one of my favorite coaches: 'When things are going bad, you go back to basics,'" he said.
Alaska successfully laid out a solid defensive game plan against Rain or Shine, holding them to just 32.1 percent form the field.
"I'm really happy with the 71 points we gave. Really happy with our defense because that's where we focused. That's where we were very specific about, defending better. I think it translated a little bit in this game," the coach noted.
It's not about to get easier for Alaska, though, as it is set to line up with the unbeaten TNT KaTropa (6-0) in five days.
"We're not perfect in all aspects, but I think for today we did enough to win. But it needs to be better, it needs to be more against TNT," said Cariaso. "Just watching them last night. Super import who's playing hard, the team's playing together. We're just hoping that we can better the way we performed tonight."
Kayel Locke had 25 points and 10 boards for the Elasto Painters, who fell to their fourth straight loss for a 1-5 card. No other player scored in double figures.
Alaska (78) -- House 22, Teng 18, Enciso 9, Manuel 9, Banchero 7, Ayaay 6, Tratter 5, Casio 2, Thoss 0, Galliguez 0.
Rain or Shine (71) -- Locke 25, Daquioag 9, Borboran 9, Nambatac 7, Rosales 5, Ponferada 5, Belga 5, Mocon 3, Torres 2, Onwubere 1, Norwood 0, Alejandro 0, Exciminiano 0.
- Alaska won the rebounding battle by a mile, 62-46.
- Despite the win, the Aces have still yet to address their long range woes after going 3-for-14 against the Elasto Painters.
- Alaska vs. TNT on Oct. 18 at the Ynares Center - Antipolo
- Rain or Shine vs. Blackwater on Oct 23. at the Cuneta Astrodome