MANILA, Philippines—Even Alaska coach Tim Cone sounded tired.
A weary Alaska crew guns for a 2-0 lead against San Miguel Beer today as the Aces, playing their 14th straight game in less than a month, seek to sustain their surprising playoff run in the PBA Fiesta Conference Finals at the Araneta Coliseum.
“It took a lot out of us,” Cone said Friday night after a series-opening 89-83 upset of the highly fancied Beermen. “We will go out and try to steal Game 2. We will play as hard as we can, keep the game close and try to win it in the stretch.”
Alaska is bracing for a hard San Miguel comeback at 6 p.m. as the Beermen try to avert going into a 0-2 hole and lose back-to-back games for the first time in two seasons in this tournament with Best Import Gabriel Freeman around.
Cone knows exactly where his team stands, and admitted that his players have that underdog mentality prevailing in the locker room.
But his players didn’t play like it.
Diamon Simpson and LA Tenorio, after losing in the individual awards handed out before the start of the series, will continue to lead the Aces, who had actually snapped a six-game, three-season losing streak to the Beermen in this tournament.
“Right now, all I have to do is to go and get that championship, leave it out there and do my best,” Simpson said in an interview with Inquirer.net.
San Miguel lost consecutive games last June 12 and 16, against Talk ‘N Text and Coca-Cola, when Freeman did not play reportedly because of the flu.
Freeman finished with 37 points Friday night and Jay Washington had, but the Beermen couldn’t get anything going offensively outside of the two. “We shot ourselves in the foot by giving up 20 turnovers,” San Miguel coach Siot Tanquingcen said. “You can’t allow a good team like Alaska opportunities like that.”
Alaska has a shot at winning its 14th league title after upsetting top-seeded Talk ‘N Text in the semifinals. And coming into this series, the Aces weren’t given much of a chance, until that Friday win reversed all pre-series hype.
“This team right now is not the same team that played in the elims, the team that lost two games to San Miguel,” Cone said. “We’ve learned and grown in terms of our play out there. We’re a playoff-hardened team and we’re getting better all the time.”