A STAR-STUDDED FEU-Nicanor Reyes Memorial Foundation team groped for form before disposing of Fly Dragon Logistics, 90-80, to open its campaign in the 5th DeLeague Cup in Marikina City.
The squad representing the the Fairview, Quezon City hospital struggled to put away unheralded Fly Dragon and needed all of the 14 points of guest player Willie Miller and his experience to avoid what could have been a monumental upset.
"Yun naman ang role ko dito, kaya tayo naaya. Kahit sparingly lang ang playing time ko, I need to guide the young players of the team," said Miller who played alongside PBA draftee Jawhar Purdy and former pros Leo Avenido, Egay Billones and Froiland Baguion in the FEU-NRMF backcourt.
Street baller Tholits Natividad had seven points, 10 assists and four rebounds for the Dragons, who didn't seem, awed by their experienced opponents.
"Sabi ko sa kanila, tao lang din mga 'yan na may dalawang kamay at paa. Wag kayong mag-panic," said Fly Dragon coach Ringgo Jimenez
FEU-NRMF led by only two points, 37-35, at halftime before Miller took over in the second half while Purdy put the clamps on Natividad.
FEU-NRMF managed to build a 21-point lead, 76-75, in the in the final 5:58 only to see the Dragons come within eight in the final two minutes.
"We were still not in top condition. Ilang araw pa lang kami nag eensayo. Pero that's not an excuse, we relaxed every time lumalamang kami ng malaki. That's unacceptable," said FEU-NRMF coach Cris Bautista.
Miller, alongside Jonathan Fernandez, Bright Akhuete, Leo Najorda and Hans Thiele, took control of the dying minutes to salvage the win for the Nino Reyes-owned ballclub.
"Medyo nangapa kami sa isa't isa, kailangan talaga naming magka-amuyan pa. Bago pa lang ang team eh. Pero we'll get there," said Avenido, a former ABL MVP.
"Yung mga batang players namin medyo nagulat din sa competition, but they will eventually catch up. Si Jawhar has been very positive sa practice kanina, so we expect him to support us better sa backcourt next game," he added.
See highlights from game: