MACAU – Finishing in fourth place in the Asia League Super 8 2018 is already quite a feat for NLEX, considering the circumstances.
NLEX coach Yeng Guiao said he was pleased with the Road Warriors' performance in the eight-team invitational tournament while missing four key players in Larry Fonacier, Kiefer Ravena, Kevin Alas, and Alex Mallari.
“We certainly accomplished our goal,” he stated. “The core of this team is not with us but we gave a good fight. It’s still good for us because this was an opportunity for the newer guys and the younger guys to learn some lessons in the international game.”
The Road Warriors arrived with meager expectations, especially after bowing out early in the 2018 PBA Commissioner’s Cup.
But the Road Warriors gave Filipino fans here a lot of reasons to cheer, beating Formosa Dreamers of Chinese Taipei in the opener before upsetting Chinese squad Xinjiang Flying Tigers to earn a ticket to the semifinals.
NLEX, however, fell to Guangzhou Long Lions in the semifinals and again to ETLand Elephants in the bronze medal game on Sunday.
There’s no doubt in Guiao’s mind, though, that his side was every inch a winner at the end of the pocket tournament, with the team developing the much-needed chemistry before the season-ending 2018 PBA Governors’ Cup.
“We felt that with some breaks, we could’ve probably played better. It’s just a pity that we were not able to use an import with this being an all-local tournament. So I guess the best thing to do is to jell the locals together,” he said.
The challenge now for the Road Warriors is to integrate import Olu Ashaolu into their system.
“Looking forward to the PBA, we have another two weeks to prepare and give our import more time to learn the system. But this was also a good chance for them to be together and create that bond and camaraderie among the team, especially with the new guys,” he said.
“Certainly, we accomplished our goal in this tournament.”