THERE is no doubt in NLEX coach Yeng Guiao’s mind that Kiefer Ravena has been the single biggest reason for the Road Warriors’ revival in the PBA Governors’ Cup.
The Road Warriors began the conference by winning three straight games thanks to Ravena, who is averaging 20 points, 8.0 rebounds, and 7.3 assists for a franchise that struggled while he served out an 18-month doping suspension.
Guiao said Ravena has given NLEX a leader at the guard position who can be steadying presence throughout the game.
“We didn’t have that threat, that steadiness in the endgame of a guard who can bring down the ball down and make decisions for us,” Guiao said. “This time, we have that. We can be pretty solid in the endgame.”
More than Ravena’s individual game, Guiao said the mere presence of the NLEX sophomore opens up opportunities for other players.
“The good thing about Kiefer and this is the reason he is so good is that he just doesn’t make himself look good, he also makes the other members of the team look good,” the former Gilas Pilipinas coach said.
Among the beneficiaries of Ravena’s ability to spread the floor are Philip Paniamogan, Paul Varilla, and Bong Galanza.
Paniamogan is averaging 10.3 points through three games, well above the former Jose Rizal U forward's 5.6 clip in 10 games last conference.
Varilla is also off to a good start this conference, averaging 9 per game - up from his 1.9-point norm in eight games in the Commissioner's Cup.
Galanza’s numbers have also slightly increased to 6.7 points from 5.6 in the Commissioner’s Cup.
“Kiefer is always going to be a threat going to the basket. He is going to attract a lot of the defense and he is making good decisions, spotting the open people. That’s the reason why they are getting good looks. That’s what we have been missing without Kiefer,” said Guiao.
JR Quinahan, one of the veterans in the team, said Ravena's presence has also allowed the team to focus on other aspects of the game, like defense.
“Malaking tulong si Kiefer. At least may nagpa-facilitate sa amin at may nagko-control. Sa practice namin, nagiging maganda. More on defense. ‘Yun ang focus namin,” Quinahan said.
Ravena said Guiao's orders are to move the ball well and share the wealth.
“’Yun lang naman ang hinihintay ni coach. Si Kevin (Alas), isa rin siya sa mga nakaka-attract sa defense. ‘Yun ang gusto ni coach eh. Sa amin, if we can get 25 assists or more per game, malaking bagay."
NLEX has tallied 30, 24, and 29 assists in games against Phoenix Pulse, Meralco, and Blackwater.
“Kung naaattract namin ang defense, spreading the ball well, we are getting easy shots,” said Ravena.
The real test for NLEX, however, begins this weekend in Dubai when the Road Warriors face powerhouse teams San Miguel and Barangay Ginebra in successive days.
NLEX will be facing San Miguel on Friday 8 p.m. (Saturday Manila time), and Barangay Ginebra on Saturday, 4:30 p.m. (8:30 p.m. Manila time).
Guiao said the team has been preparing for the two teams even before their match against Blackwater last Sunday.
“We’ve been slowly trying to prepare for both teams, without losing focus on the game at hand. We are applying some principles already. That’s the only way. There’s no chance to prepare especially [for] the Ginebra game,” said Guiao.
“It’s more of a mental game,” Ravena said. “We have to sustain the momentum. We are happy but we are not contented after a 3-0 start. Hopefully, we can bring it to Dubai.”