By Jerome Lagunzad
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — NLEX failed to get the job done against powerhouse San Miguel Beer on Friday night, but Road Warriors coach Yeng Guiao still saw encouraging signs that could help them make a deep run in the PBA Governors Cup.
“We were one rebound away from winning the game,” he said, hardly disheartened by a 98-94 setback dealt by the Beermen at the Coca-Cola Arena that put a blemish on the Road Warriors’ erstwhile perfect 3-0 start in the season-ending tournament.
A victory could have been a big morale booster, but Guiao still had plenty of positives to take after the Road Warriors recovered from an early 10-point hole, kept in step with the Beermen and even enjoyed a 94-91 lead off Kenneth Ighalo’s corner three with a little over a minute remaining.
“Overall, it’s still good for us,” said the seven-time PBA champion coach. “We measured up against a really good team and to me, that’s a good sign. We’re just starting and we’re just getting the right pieces together. So magandang senyales pa rin ito para sa’min.”
Notably with how the Road Warriors’ locals responded to the daunting challenge, with heady guard Kiefer Ravena leading the way with 20 points on top of a game-best eight assists and five rebounds.
Lanky center Poy Erram scored 12 points and blocked four shots while Ighalo and Jericho Cruz combined for 23 points off the bench that nearly made up for Nigerian-Canadian import Ola Ashaolu’s measly 11 points.
"Medyo malaking setback 'yung diperensiya sa import scoring. Their import (Dez Wells) scored 32 points and ours only 11. But in spite of that, we still had the chance to win the game. So that means the locals were able to cover the difference in the scoring,” said Guiao.
The NLEX tactician is also not too worried about the Road Warriors’ shooting struggles from beyond the arc after they missed their first 10 attempts and finished 10-of-40 shooting against the Beermen.
“That's built-in to our system. We'd take the 3-point shot when it's available. So that's what I tell them," he said. "We also understand that 3-point shooting is fickle. Sometimes you have it, sometimes you don't. In the last three games we had it, but today we did not. But we still had the chance to win the game. To me, okay iyon.”
The Road Warriors won’t have any luxury of rest as they will plunge back to action on Saturday night to take on crowd darling Barangay Ginebra Gin Kings at 6 p.m. Dubai time (10 p.m. Manila time).