Aces win, stay in thick of the hunt

    ALASKA may be busy off-court but still has time to take care of business on it.

    Displaying uncanny grit under pressure, the Aces hurdled NorthPort 106-99 last night to keep their hopes alive of at least playing off for a PBA Governors Cup quarterfinals spot at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

    Franko House’s personal PBA-best 23 points on top of 11 rebounds were enough to pace Alaska, which displayed brilliance for majority of the game despite the absence of top guard Chris Banchero and big games from the Batang Pier’s Christian Standhardinger and Michael Qualls.

    League Commissioner Willie Marcial said he is set to approve Banchero’s trade to Magnolia in exchange for Rodney Brondial and Bobbie Herndon right after the Alaska-NorthPort game.

    Also to be given Marcial’s nod is a separate deal sending Bobby Ray Parks Jr. from Blackwater to TNT in exchange for Don Trollano, Anthony Semerad and a future second round pick.

    Alaska coach Jeff Cariaso was unaware if the trade for Banchero was moving forward, but stressed it was a decision he arrived at along with his coaching staff.

    “That was really my trade. That was a coaching staff’s decision,” said Cariaso. “I really feel this trade is going to help us. I really feel that with the parts na kailangan namin the two (Brondial and Herndon) will fit in perfectly.

    “To get something you also have to give up something. Chris Banchero is a really good player. He’s done a lot for us here at Alaska, but siya lang din ang gusto nu’ng iba.”

    The Banchero trade came out last Friday. He last played for the Aces in a 101-91 win over Blackwater last Oct. 26 and reportedly has not shown up for practices since then.

    Foremost among those who tried to keep the thought of parting with a long-time teammate is Vic Manuel, who added 22 points and 10 boards, and Abu Tratter, who chipped in 17 and nine.

    “Iyon naman sinasabi ni coach Jeff, na kailangan maglaro lang kami as a team, sama-sama kami kahit ano mangyari,” related Manuel.

    As a result, Alaska notched its first back-to-back wins of the conference to improve to a 3-6 record overall. It is still out of the top eight teams moving on to the next round, but now just half-a-game behind eighth-running NorthPort’s 3-5 slate.

    More wins by the Aces over Phoenix Pulse on Nov. 13 and NLEX on Nov. 20 and it could at least hope to play off for the last spot in the quarters.