During their PBA golden era: Alaska Milkmen sacrificed team glory for nation’s pride

Emmanuel B. Villaruel (The Freeman) - June 30, 2020 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines —  After dominating the All-Filipino Conference and the Commissioner's Cup in the 1998 PBA season, the Alaska Milkmen (now Aces), then under the wings of coach Tim Cone, were on course of nailing a second grandslam title which they first achieved two years prior.

But their campaign to clinch another coveted three-peat hit a major roadblock when Cone was tapped to coach the Philippine Centennial Team in men's basketball event of the 13th Asian Games in Bangkok, Thailand.

Along with that, the Uytengsu-owned franchise had to loan three of their superstars in Johnny Abarrientos, Jojo Lastimosa, and Kenneth Duremdes to the national team.

Without Cone and their vaunted triumvirate, the Milkmen got eliminated with only two wins in seven games during the season-ending Governor's Cup, thus, wiping out their bid for a second grandslam.

Alaska's great sacrifice and allegiance to the flag, however, paid huge dividends when Cone steered the the Philippines to a bronze-medal finish in the prestigious sports conclave that happens only once in four years.

 After pulling off a 53-52 cliffhanger over Kazakhstan in their first game, the Nationals hammered Kyrgyzstan, 91-50.

In the quarterfinals, the Pinoy cagers drubbed the United Arab Emirates, 93-57, and host Thailand, 86-60, but bowed to archrival South Korea, 82-103.

Team Phl still made it to the semis but was relegated to a battle for third place after a 73-82 defeat at the hands of China, then led by twin towers Wang Zhizhi and Mengke Beteer.

In their rematch with the Kazakhs who earlier gave them a major scare, the Filipinos prevailed, 73-68, to claim the bronze medal with Alaska's Lastimosa emerging as the man of the hour.

Together with the Alaska's trio in the star-studded Centennial squad were Allan Caidic, Alvin Patrimonio, Marlou Aquino, Dennis Espino, Jun Limpot, Vergel Meneses, Kenneth Duremdes, Johnny Abarrientos, Olsen Racela, EJ Feihl and Andy Seigle. Jeffrey Cariaso served as reserve player.

Cone and his Phl Centennial Team, which got its name as the country was celebrating the centenary of its independence at that time, was the last Phl team to make a podium finish in the quadrennial games.

With that, Cone and the Alaska Milkmen could walk down memory lane with joy and pride in their hearts that once upon a time they personified patriotism at its highest degree by setting aside team success for nation's glory.

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