AFTER getting a taste of semifinal basketball in the PBA, NLEX won’t settle for anything less from hereon.
Following their Final Four debut in the Philippine Cup against Magnolia, the Road Warriors are setting the same standard in the Commissioner’s Cup where they are bringing in former NBA player Arnett Moultrie.
And coach Yeng Guiao is not just aiming for another semifinal stint, but beyond.
“Of course we’re hoping to do that (being a title contender next time),” Guiao said after his team’s 96-89 loss in Game Six against the Hotshots on Tuesday night. “Parang ngayon kasi, pag hindi ka pumasok ng semis, parang tumataas yung dosage mo.”
“You know you made the semis, now anything less than the semis, parang hindi ka satisfied,” he added. “So naramdaman mo na ano yung feeling, alam mo rin what it takes to win it, so you feel you have a better chance, your confidence is higher, so susubukan namin ulit na makarating dito, at baka sakaling swertehin pa.”
“Nakaka-adik yun,” continue the champion mentor, who steered Rain or Shine to nine straight semifinal appearances from the 2013 Governors’ Cup, capped by a championship in the 2016 Commissioner’s Cup.
Right in their first Final Four stint, the Road Warriors prove they belong on this stage as they almost took the second-seeded Hotshots to the limit in their best-of-seven series, before surrendering in Game Six in the absence of ejected JR Quinahan and injured Kevin Alas.
“I think we have improved a lot. Ang laki ng in-improve ng team. Malungkot na talo, pero hanggang huli naman lumaban, tsaka nawala sa amin si Kevin, nawala pa sa amin si JR, pero muntik pa rin manalo eh,” Guiao said, pointing to two crucial turnovers they committed inside the last two minutes that did them in.
“But that’s the way it goes,” he was quick to add. “We will be a better team with this experience. And we are getting to be a better team, actually, from the eliminations, to the quarterfinals, to the semifinals.”
Guiao lamented that Game Five loss where he blamed officiating, proved to be the turning point of the series.
“Crucial yung Game Five; nawala si Kevin, and then ang dami naming bad breaks sa officiating. I think that’s what really killed us in Game Five. It’s not even the injury of Kevin. Ngayon naman, yung ejection ni JR – but again, we will not make those excuses,” Guiao said.
“We should be ready for them when they happen because it also happened to them with the injury of Marc Pingris, so kanya-kanyang adjustment, adaptation lang naman yan.”
“But with what happened, I feel pag dating ng next conference, mas buo kami, mas matatag kami,” he added. “I think it’s built up the toughness within this team. Marami kaming playoff, semifinal experience, but individual yun eh. Iba talaga yung meron kang experience na magkakasama kayo, so it’s also good for the bonding of the team na nandun kayo habang nakikipaglaban kayo – manalo man o matalo.”