TNT coach Nash Racela and his coaching staff were the last ones to leave the Smart-Araneta Coliseum dugout after they were left to ponder a disappointing end to the PBA Commissioner’s Cup semifinals.
The KaTropa finished third in the elimination round but, by sheer bad luck, found themselves paired with reigning champion San Miguel, which had shrugged off a slow start to finish sixth in the eliminations.
On Wednesday, the KaTropa suffered a sweep at the hands of the Beermen following a 106-102 win in Game Two.
Racela said it was unfortunate the team had to face the Beermen early in the playoffs.
“Disappointing in a way because we didn’t get past the quarters,” said Racela. “In a conference, the goal really is get to the playoffs. If you could really avoid San Miguel and hope you’ll just beat them in the finals.”
In the Philippine Cup, TNT also met San Miguel in the quarters and lost.
“For the last two conferences, we met them early. I think that made it tough because we had to face San Miguel right away,” said Racela.
Despite finishing third in the elimination round, TNT had to endure the Fiba 3x3 World Cup and the Fiba World Cup Asian qualifiers break, a predicament that affected the KaTropa, according to Racela.
TNT had Jayson Castro, Terrence Romeo, Troy Rosario, and Roger Pogoy in at least one of those two international tournaments.
“It’s always been challenging when we lose players to 3x3, when we lose them to the Fiba qualifier, when we lose them to the Asian Games. It’s really tough because it always affects your preparations. Just to be honest, when we had that break from Fiba, we never upgraded what we were doing because we missed the major players."
“There is no sense in putting in new things and then when they practice for one or two days before the game, pag-aaralan pa nila. So those two days before the actual game, they need it for a refresher sa ginagawa namin. It’s really tough, I won’t deny that. But again, ‘yan ang barahang meron ka eh,” Racela said.
Despite the early exit, Racela is happy with the way the team fought in what he felt was a well-officiated match.
“I like how we lost today. I really felt the team did their part, effort-wise, and they were just following the plan. It’s nice that today, they allowed us to play. Actually for the first time, free throws surprisingly were I think 30 (San Miguel) to 21 (TNT). We fouled na in the end so it’s probably about 26 to 21. Every time they call it that way, I think we have a chance.
“All we ask for really is a fair chance. We got that. So it’s a lot easier to accept defeat. It’s nice. We got a fair chance and we did our part. They did their part. In the end, it was just them executing better in the end,” said Racela.