Despite quarterfinal exit, Jeffrey Cariaso is 'so proud' of the Alaska Aces

The Alaska Aces arrived in batches but are leaving the PBA Bubble as one unit, literally and figuratively.

Their stint in the 2020 PBA Philippine Cup ended Saturday night as they were booted out by the TNT Tropang Giga in the quarterfinals. What made the loss a little heavier for the Aces was their worry about Abel Galliguez who was at the Medical City Clark after suffering a hard fall in the fourth quarter of the match.

Thankfully, Galliguez did not suffer additional injuries other than the gash on his left eyebrow that needed more than 20 stitches to close. When he arrived back at the Quest Hotel, the Aces started planning their exit on Sunday morning as they would not have left him behind if he needed to spend more time at the hospital. Whatever happened, they were leaving as a team because as they often say, Alaska is all about "We not Me."

"I'm so proud of the team. We really became a lot better from Day 1 compared to where we are now. Obviously, the improvement is not yet good enough for a powerhouse team like TNT," said Alaska head coach Jeffrey Cariaso as the team's quest for their 15th banner stretches on to the next conference. "This bubble was a challenge but it was fun playing. It was fun competing again."

The Aces suffered a couple of early losses against TNT and Meralco but finally broke through groove after beating Magnolia in their third game. They got into a nice groove with a three-game winning streak but it was snapped after a close loss to San Miguel Beer.

The Aces finished with a 7-4 record with three of their losses coming from top teams in TNT, SMB, and Ginebra. This only makes Cariaso even more certain that his squad is moving in the right direction.

"The good teams who make the semis are the consistent ones. I consider our team fairly young and a little inexperienced together so being in a twice-to-beat disadvantage is new to some and that challenge is something that we learned and we hope to build on that moving forward," said Cariaso. "We learned where we need to be to make it to the next level. We need to be better to make it to the semis and a lot better to make it to the finals."

Vic Manuel remained the main offensive weapon for the Aces as their young star Jeron Teng had his offensive struggles throughout the competition. Alaska saw marked improvements from some of the new members of their team in Rob Herndon and Mike DiGregorio while their frontcourt rotation of Abu Tratter, Rodney Brondial, and rookie Barkley Ebona will only get better in time.

"I think we really improved as the conference went on. I'm really proud of the guys with how they handled the adjustments. There are still a lot of things that Alaska will have to improve on so we can move forward in the future," Cariaso went on. "I like how the guys approached every day of practice and every game. We hope to continue to improve. We still don't know the schedule but we'll have exit meetings to make sure everyone's in the right place mentally."