NLEX suffered a second straight loss in the Smart Bro-PBA Philippine Cup on Wednesday night following a 96-90 setback at the hands of Globalport at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Starting playmaker Jonas Villanueva found a measure of consolation as Far Eastern University crowned itself the new UAAP men’s basketball champion at the expense of University of Santo Tomas.
“Yun ang good thing na nangyari today, natalo kami, nanalo naman ang FEU,” said a smiling Villanueva, who was part of the last Tamaraws team to win the title in the country’s premier collegiate league along with Arwind Santos and Denok Miranda.
“Sayang nga hindi ako nakapunta, buti nanalo naman.”
[See Year of the Tamaraw]
The Tamaraws overcame a 51-57 deficit in the stretch run of their winner take all encounter with the Growling Tigers to prevail, 67-62, and clinch their first UAAP championship in over a decade.
Unfortunately, the same can’t be said of the Road Warriors opposite the Batang Pier.
NLEX trailed by as many as 53-35 at halftime but managed to threaten at 92-90 inside the final two minutes following a completed three-point play by Kevin Alas.
But missed shots and opportunities kept the Road Warriors from overcoming the Batang Pier to suffer their fourth loss in eight outings.
“Yun nga sinabi ni coach, bakit kailangan pa namin magpatambak, bakit di na lang daw agad maglaro ng maayos,” said Villanueva, who recently became a father.
“Ang problema namin kasi laging start. Second half talagang ok kami. First half lang talaga ang problema.”
Hopefully, he said the Road Warriors will be able to address the problem starting with their game against defending champion San Miguel next week.
As the top veteran in NLEX’s backcourt, Villanueva said it’s his responsibility to lead and guide the team’s young guns such as Garvo Lanete, Simon Enciso and Alas.
“Before ako yung tinutulungan, pero ngayon ako naman ang nagle-lead. It’s been a good one. I just try to mix up kung kelan dapat mag-takeover or kung kelan ka dapat mag-defer sa mga teammates mo,” he said.