ALASKA got one piece back and he immediately provided the difference.
Jeron Teng marked his long-awaited return to action by making some clutch plays in the stretch and helping the Aces notch a breakthrough 78-71 win over Rain or Shine last night in the PBA Governors Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Showing no ill effects of the hamstring injury that kept him on the sidelines in Alaska’s first five games, Teng finished with 18 points, including eight in the final quarter that helped keep Rain or Shine at bay.
The sophomore pro added nine rebounds and two assists, none bigger than the nifty inbound pass to a cutting Jayvee Casio that resulted in a layup and put the Aces safely away 76-70, only 17.7 ticks left.
“Absolutely,” Alaska coach Jeffrey Cariaso said when asked if Teng chiefly contributed to the win that pulled his team abreast of its victim at 1-5.
“Clear naman na medyo kulang kami sa position niya at small forward, someone who can defend, rebound, score,” added Cariaso. “Big help, Jeron.”
The loss was Rain or Shine’s fourth straight despite Kayel Locke notching a second straight double-double of 25 points and 10 boards.
No other Elasto Painter scored in double figures, however, and they collectively made just seven of 18 field goal tries in the fourth period to showcase another poor shooting night.
Still, Rain or Shine, which trailed by as much as 48-60 in the third quarter, managed to muster enough to come within four points twice, the last at 70-74 off a Locke basket, 47 ticks remaining.
Then came the Teng-Casio hookup that proved decisive.
“Just really happy to get that monkey off our back,” said Cariaso, who was tapped to replace former chief Alex Compton just last Aug. 21.
His players sticking to their gameplan also helped.
“In our other games there would be one quarter where we played okay,” said Cariaso.
“Tonight we sustained it for the entire four quarters. More than anything, I’m really happy with (Rain or Shine’s) 71 (points). That’s what we were specific about the whole week, defending.”
Cariaso, however, wouldn’t go so far as saying the win would start a streak, especially up next is TNT, which improved to 6-0 and officially claimed the first quarterfinals seat last Saturday following a 116-113 victory over Meralco.
“I can’t say tuloy-tuloy na,” said Cariaso. “We’d just focus on the good things we did tonight and use them against TNT. We have to better the way we performed tonight so we can have a chance.”