AS its winning streak got longer and longer, NLEX inevitably showed signs of complacency.
But a 66-52 loss to Café France on Tuesday that ended the team's winning run at 24 shook the Road Warriors out of their stupor, and D-League powerhouse were back with a renewed sense of purpose the next day.
When the Road Warriors returned to practice the following day, NLEX coach Boyet Fernandez readily sensed that his players were focused and ready to get back to work.
“That was the first time that we practiced na walang tumatawa …. Hindi mo sila mapuwersa mag-praktis dati, kasi (sasabihin nila), 'Coach naman, panalo kami'," said Fernandez.
“It’s a lesson for us. Medyo hindi ko sila mapwersa before but you can’t blame them,” he added.
During that 24-game winning streak that spanned almost 11 months and led to two titles, Fernandez rarely showed any emotion after every victory, even criticizing the team during blowout victories.
But on Thursday, he let the emotions out.
Fernandez was all smiles after the Road Warriors got back on track with a 72-70 win over Blackwater Sports. He even hugged Baser Amer, who played the hero’s role in his short but meaningful appearance off the bench for the team.
After the win, celebrations inside the NLEX dugout could be heard from as far as the court area.
“I’m happy really for my players that came off the bench and played their game,” Fernandez said.
Fernandez is just happy that the team with the collection of the best amateur players in the land finally has the pressure of having to sustain one of the longest win streaks in local basketball off their back.
“Probably, the pressure is too high for them,” said Fernandez. “People are expecting them to win every game so that puts pressure on them.”
The team ends its elimination-round campaign on December 20 against Cebuana Lhuillier.