Alex Compton
Compton tired of 2nd place
Joaquin Henson (The Philippine Star) - December 24, 2018 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — After failing to nail a championship in his fifth Finals appearance, Alaska coach Alex Compton yesterday admitted he’s tired of second place but it’s also a strong motivation to try harder next time there’s an opportunity to win his first title.

Compton’s latest miss came in the PBA Governors Cup Finals which Magnolia won, 4-2, by taking Game 6, 102-86, at the Ynares Center, Antipolo, last Wednesday. “Each time you lose in the Finals, it’s painful and bitter,” he said. “But it gets you more excited to try it again, to win that first one. The crucial games were 2 and 5. They were close and could’ve gone either way, coming down to one possession, one loose ball, one shot. I thought those games decided the outcome. We lost Game 2 by six but the final score was deceiving. We just kept fouling in the end.”

Compton said Magnolia deserved the trophy. “They were a little longer, a little quicker,” he said. “They worked hard for it. Coach Chito (Victolero) did a fantastic job in the series. One play that caused us a lot of problems was their high pick-and-roll with Romeo (Travis) and Paul (Lee). Romeo either popped with space or found shooters in the corner or Paul got away with a shot. Rafi (Reavis) gave us trouble with his length, defending Mike (Harris). We didn’t have anyone like Rafi so Mike had to defend Romeo.”

With Vic Manuel on the bench in Game 6, Compton said it was difficult to keep up. “I’m not an excuse-maker but when one of your best players goes down, it changes things,” said Compton. “I’m proud of Vic. He started the Finals with a back injury but played through it until he couldn’t go on. We squeezed whatever minutes we could get out of him. He didn’t play the second half of Game 5 and all of Game 6. Vic is like a basket waiting to happen, our game-changer. When he’s on the floor, Vic takes a load off Mike. We never talked about Vic’s injury. It’s something we wanted to keep quiet about. He’ll be gone for a while and need a few months to rest before coming back to play in the Philippine Cup. Vic’s absence, however, wasn’t the reason we lost. Magnolia beat us and we’re not taking anything away from their win.”

Compton said when Travis played for the Aces in the 2015 Governors Cup, he dominated until the Finals against San Miguel Beer. “Romeo went up against the Hotshots in the semifinals and we swept them,” recalled Compton. “That was when they had Ping (Marc Pingris), Rafi and Marqus Blakely, the best defensive frontline in the league. But in the Finals, we were blanked by San Miguel Beer. AZ Reid asked me what happened to Romeo. He got hurt and struggled in the Finals.  But this year was different. I think Romeo is super smart with a high level basketball IQ. He knows the game, the flow, how to play it. He makes the right decisions.”

Despite Travis’ heroics, Compton said Harris had the rightful claim to the Best Import trophy. “No question, he’s the best culture-impacter,” he said. “Mike has tremendous lockerroom presence. In my 12 years in pro basketball, nobody comes close. I never got to coach Justin (Brownlee) or Sean (Chambers) but from those I’ve coached, Mike’s exceptional. He cares about people, he’s great with teammates, he works hard. I won’t dwell on something that happened after Game 6 but it gave Mike extra fuel to want to come back and avenge our loss.”

Compton said he’s worried that the players may not recover from a grueling grind to be ready for the next season which opens at the Philippine Arena on Jan. 13. “It’s a challenge to get their bodies ready,” he said. “We just finished a 14-month season without a break. If we weren’t playing games, we were practicing so there was really no break. I’m thankful to our medical staff for what they do to our players. But it takes a toll. JuneMar (Fajardo) wasn’t at full strength for the Governors Cup. Neither were Ranidel (De Ocampo), J. D. (Dillinger) and Cliff (Hodge) for Meralco. Then, Vic went down. And it looks we’re headed for another 14-month season.”

Compton said he accepted the P20,000 fine from PBA commissioner Willie Marcial for his comments after Game 4. “I met with Commissioner Willie,” he said. “I explained that I tried to word my comments in a way where I wouldn’t be misinterpreted as going against the league. I’ll always defend my players and protect our league. I was upset about an action on the court. It’s not my place to say if the fine on Mark (Barroca) for the strike on Chris (Banchero) was enough or not. I trust Commissioner Willie. That’s his job. He does what’s best for the league.”

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