IT took eight long months for the pain to subside for NLEX.
From the time NLEX bowed to Blackwater in last season’s Foundation Cup until Wednesday when the Road Warriors lifted the Aspirants Cup trophy with victory over Big Chill, coach Boyet Fernandez said they were aching to redeem themselves.
“Masakit ’yun,” Fernandez said referring to the Foundation Cup defeat. “Hanggang ngayon pero at least nabawasan na.”
The star-studded squad that ruled the league’s first four conferences was sent crashing back to earth last June when the Road Warriors were swept by Blackwater Sports.
But NLEX came up with a sweep against Big Chill and regained its billing as the top team in the PBA D-League.
Fernandez added that claiming the Aspirants Cup crown this time was a little sweeter since the squad was coming off a title defeat.
“Masarap ng konti ito,” said Fernandez. “You can’t really compare the feeling of the other championships pero coming off na na-sweep kami (against Blackwater), mas masarap ng konti ngayon dahil medyo na-redeem namin sarili namin.”
Already lording over the developmental league since the inception in 2011, Fernandez said his squad came a little complacent in the Foundation Cup. The title defeat that conference drove the Road Warriors to be motivated for the Aspirants Cup campaign.
“Medyo masakit ‘yun dahil during the two games that we lost, we were up and we lost it in the need. Ang plano namin this conference is to redeem ourselves from the debacle,” said Fernandez.
Aside from retaining the core that includes members of the Gilas cadets, NLEX also made key moves after several players moved up to the pro ranks.
After the likes of Greg Slaughter and Ian Sangalang applied for the PBA Draft, the Road Warriors inked a school tie-up with San Beda where Fernandez is also the coach, allowing Nigerian center Ola Adeogun and several other Red Lions cagers to join the squad.
NLEX guard Kevin Alas agreed with Fernandez that this title means a lot following the Foundation Cup defeat.
“Siguro kung nag-champion kami ng pang-five-peat, baka natalo kami this conference. Magandang wake-up call rin sa amin ’yun,” said Alas.
NLEX will have a short time to rest before the 2014 Foundation Cup opens shop on March 18. Fernandez said he hopes to stick with the current core including the San Beda players.
“I still have my core. Right now, we are staying with the core. Sabi nga nila, kung hindi sira, bakit bubuwagin. I’m hoping for another good run next conference. But you know naman na kapag summer, San Beda always goes outside the country to train.
"We will think about it in the next few days dahil priority rin naman for San Beda to retain the NCAA title,” said Fernandez.