Oh what could have been. Let’s say sixes stretched to sevens. Let’s say the vacationers turned in some overtime. Let’s say, just for kicks, that instead of practicing with new imports, the Alaska Aces and San Mig Coffee Mixers were practicing to play each other – in the PBA Finals.
Now of course, Talk N Text and Rain or Shine deserve to be playing in the last series of the conference. Whoever gets to four first will more than earn that shiny gold cup. No arguments here. That series will be spectacular. But while we wait, let’s just play What If.
PJ versus Casio at the top. James and Skyrus at the wings. JDV and Baracael trying to do a little of everything for both squads. Yancy and The Boss banging underneath. And Sakuragi on a collision course with The Beast. With everything at stake, for all the marbles, for the PBA Philippine Cup title. Man, that would’ve been good.
There are more storylines here than Abueva has rebounds, or James has female fans. It would be a chance for Alaska to stick it to their former coach, to make him regret ever leaving the Aces, for them to complete the rebuild, for them to finally close a chapter and write a new championship story not authored by Tim Cone. It would be the perfect storybook finale to Luigi Trillo’s once-doubted rise to the first chair on the Alaska bench: a victory over his mentor.
Triangle versus triangle. Long sleeves and ties versus long sleeves and ties. Jet and The Flying A in The Finals, not repping the Uytengsu franchise. For San Mig Coffee, it would have been redemption, seven attempts to try and permanently erase the anomaly that was last year’s quarterfinals loss to Gary David’s burning hands. And this time, they’d have to do it not against the emerging Granada, but against the wrecking ball that is Calvin Abueva.
Speaking of the former Golden Stag, he represents the new breed of Aces, the changed guard. The most un-Alaska player ever winning against figurehead of the team’s past? The Beast on the grandest stage, cementing his Best Player of the Conference campaign, inching closer to a possible Benjie season? He still could be Rookie-MVP. But a Finals appearance would have definitely raised his chances.
As for James Yap and his Mixers? The Aces don’t have Jireh Ibanes, or Ryan Arana, or Ronnie Matias and Gabe Norwood. Against Alaska defenders, Yap poured in 20 when they first met this conference, and then had an explosive 11-point third quarter to bring his team back in the second matchup. He could have had an excellent shot at another Finals MVP plaque, another legendary championship performance.
And then there’s the benches. The emergence of RJ Jazul and the rise of Mark Barroca as high-level point men would have climaxed in the Finals. There’s Gaby Espinas and Raffi Reavis pogo-sticking their way to every lose ball, every 50-50 possession. There’s Wesley, JC and Jonas, going against Raphy, Dondon and Tony, all always ready, all possibly deadly.
It would have been fun to watch. It’s one of those things we’ve lost to the universe, to the depths of shoulda-wouldas. It’s one of those things that lead me to moments of great weakness and stupidity, wanting to suggest an extremely unnecessary best-of-seven series for third place.
Somewhere, in an alternate universe, Skyrus is planning against Big Game, PJ is waiting to outshoot JVee, Yancy is preparing to outpivot Sonny, Mac is pondering on stopping JDV, and Marc Pingris is aching to go full steam ahead against Calvin Abueva.
Say that last one out loud.
“Marc Pingris is aching to go full steam ahead against Calvin Abueva.”
Photo c/o InterAKTV