KHAPRI Alston proved to be what Columbian coach Johnedel Cardel wanted the import to be with a monster game and against the Dyip's long-time nemesis at that.
Alston debuted with 38 points and 22 rebounds as Columbian held off Alaska 117-110 Friday at the start of the PBA Governors' Cup at the Mall of Asia Arena.
CJ Perez, Glenn Khobuntin, Rashawn McCarthy and new acquisitions Juami Tiongson and Lervin Flores led those who ably lent support, but it was the wide-shouldered Alston who drew the highest praise from Cardel after lending the inside presence his team sorely needed.
"We have a good import. 'Yun ang wala namin, a player who could go to the post, a passer, and a smart guy," said Cardel. "Even though he is just 6-3, he plays like a 6-10."
"Di lang happy," added Cardel when asked if he was satisfied with Alston's first official game, "haping-hapi kasi iyun kulang sa team namin, iyung low-post guy."
Indeed, Alston stamped his dominance by going 12-of-19 off a variety of post moves and even went 14-of-17 from the stripes.
His caroms also gave Columbian a 65-48 advantage off the boards and Alaska didn't help itself any by shooting 20-of-50 from the field in the second half.
The victory is made sweeter by the fact it was fashioned over the same Alaska team that, by virtue of a higher quotient, bumped Columbian off from the playoffs picture in the last Commissioner's Cup.
What's more, the Dyip also snapped out of an eight-game losing streak to the Aces dating back to the 2016-17 season.
Spoiled was the debut of Jeff Cariaso as head coach of Alaska.
Justin Watts led all scorers with 40 points on top of 14 rebounds, but he did not get as much help as Alston did as only newcomer Abu Tratter, Vic Manuel and Simon Enciso finished in double figures with at least 11 points each.
In contrast, Perez had his own double-double of 28 points and 13 rebounds, Khobuntin added 16 markers and McCarthy and Tiongson 11 each.
Flores, along with Joseph Gabayni and Tiongson acquired from NorthPort in separate deals, scored only four points off charities but the last two of those gave Columbian a 107-96 lead.
Already playing minus the injured Jeron Teng, Kevin Racal and Maverick Ahanmisi, Alaska got further decimated when Noy Baclao hurt his right knee off a bad fall, barely 58 seconds into the fourth period. He was stretchered out of the court and later taken to a hospital.
That incident further compounded the Aces' woes in a game where it trailed by as many as 14 points and could not pounce on a golden opportunity that presented itself after Tratter's drive brought them within 108-113, 26 ticks left.
Following a botched inbound between Khobuntin and Alston, Tratterhad the chance to inch Alaska closer but missed a pair of free throws.
Perez then tracked down the ball off the last miss and McCarthy iced the game with three charities inside the last 16 seconds that made it 116-108.
Columbian actually started seizing full control by going on a 20-4 run to start the third quarter to snap out of a 56-all deadlock at halftime and erect a 76-62 lead behind Alston, who went on to score 17 of his points in the period.
Perez added 11 of his own points in that span with his buzzer-beating triple pegging a 93-81 count going to the last 12 minutes of play.
After scoring just four points in the opening quarter, Watts suddenly came alive in the second period with 13 of his markers, his back-to-back triples pushing Alaska ahead 45-39.
Columbian would not so easily buckle with Tiongson spiking his eight second quarter points with two straight triples that drew the Dyip level at 56.
Alston already had 15 points and 11 rebounds in the opening half and got plenty of help from McCarthy and Perez as Columbian raced to an early 26-14 lead.
But Alaska had its own counter, with Abel Galliguez, Manuel and Enciso helping out Watts the most. Even Tratter quietly chipped in with seven points and as many rebounds in the first 24 minutes of play. (NC)
Columbian 117 - Alston 38, Perez 28, Khobuntin 16, McCarthy 11, Tiongson 11, Camson 5, Flores 4, Calvo 4, Reyes 0, Celda 0, Gabayni 0, Cahilig 0.
Alaska 110 - Watts 40, Tratter 14, Manuel 14, Enciso 11, Ayaay 9, Thoss 6, Galliguez 6, Casio 4, Banchero 3, Baclao 2, Pascual 0.
Quarters: 28-22, 56-56, 93-81, 117-110.