By JONAS TERRADO
(Ynares Sports Arena, Pasig City)
2 p.m. – TNT vs Terrafirma
4:35 p.m. – Magnolia vs Phoenix
Alaska broke loose in the second half to roll past Blackwater, 103-77, yesterday as the PBA kicked off its 46th season with the centerpiece Philippine Cup at the Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig City.
Mike DiGregorio fired 20 points to lead the Aces’ decisive breakaway in the third quarter and emerge as the first team to win a game in the season that finally got underway after lengthy delays caused by the country’s COVID-19 situation.
The Aces also got a big lift from free agent signing Yousef Taha, who had 16 points and seven rebounds in 25 minutes off the bench.
Coach Jeff Cariaso lauded his team after dealing with struggles in the first half, especially defending former Alaska guard Simon Enciso who was waxing hot from long range.
Enciso, who eventually finished with 23 points in his debut for the Bossing, eventually cooled off in time for the Aces to take command.
“To be honest, I couldn’t sleep last night because of the uncertainty over how we’re gonna look,” said Cariaso. “It’s hard to kind of gauge your team – and I think all the coaches feel this way – when you don’t have an opportunity to play against anyone else except yourself.
“So my challenge to the guys was really just to share the ball on offense and to defend the best way we can. Luckily tonight Mike stepped up and a lot of the guys, they really followed the simple game plan that we had. So we’re happy for this first step.”
Meanwhile, action continues today at the same venue with a doubleheader pitting TNT against Terrafirma at 2 p.m. and Magnolia battling Phoenix Super LPG at 4:35 p.m.
Chot Reyes makes his coaching return for TNT while No. 1 draft pick Joshua Munzon hopes to live up to his billing in the first game.
Calvin Abueva will look to start his Magnolia stint with a victory at the expense of his former team Phoenix, which acquired his good friend Vic Manuel from Alaska during the offseason.
ALASKA 103 — DiGregorio 20, Taha 16, Tratter 13, Banal 8, Ilagan 8, Teng 7, Adamos 7, Herndon 7, Brondial 6, Casio 5, Marcelino 4, Ahanmisi 2, Browne 0, Publico 0.
BLACKWATER 77 — Enciso 23, Tolomia 15, Daquioag 12, Canaleta 7, Magat 6, Nabong 6, Amer 4, Desiderio 2, Semerad 2, Escoto 0, Dennison 0, Acuno 0.
Quarters: 16-15, 39-39, 71-57, 103-77.