Pressure catches up with rookie Ravena in his first PBA semis
More often than not, Kiefer Ravena’s undeniable brilliance covers the fact that he’s still a 24-year-old rookie.
But most rookies in the professional level don’t usually lead a team to a deep playoff run the way Ravena has taken NLEX into its first PBA semifinals appearance.
Ravena took over in his first-ever game in the semis where he accounted for the Road Warriors’ final eight points, including an assist that led to Alex Mallari’s game-winning triple.
However, he had come up short in Games 2 and 3 of the series and both of those times served as reminders that it was just three months and 16 games ago when Ravena made his PBA debut.
Ravena attributed his Game 2 struggles to the defense and familiarity of Magnolia point guard Jio Jalalon, who is also his teammate with the national team.
“We have to give credit also to the defense. I saw this interview with Jio, the familiarity of him being since college, that’s one of our perks playing alongside each other with Gilas,” he said. “The battles we played internationally and the practices we’ve had together, you really pick up and learn a lot in terms of the tendencies of the players.”
His numbers in the last two games are not bad, but it’s already considered subpar for the kind of standard Ravena set for himself since his arrival in the PBA, where he’s had near triple-double performances, game-winning plays and scoring outbursts.
He had nine points, three rebounds and seven assists but registered five turnovers in Game 2 before posting a team-high 20 points and five assists but shot 6-of-16 from the field, 7-of-12 from the free throw line and was a game-worst minus-17.
“We’re in the pros already. There’s no one to blame for the missed free throws but the one who’s shooting so I take it upon myself to practice, focus mentally,” Ravena said after a 105-99 loss to the Hotshots in Game 3 Wednesday night.
“It’s not really more about practice, but it’s really more that mental aspect of making it. You lose focus and lose yourself in the moment,” he added. “You only have to think about the free throw. You can’t be thinking about the scoreboard, thinking about the next play. Perhaps, it comes with the pressure with the semifinals. I am a rookie.”
The Road Warriors muffed 11 of their 29 free throws as a team, most of which during their rally late in the third quarter and early in the fourth period.
NLEX coach Yeng Guiao said the missed free throws are part of the breaks of the game, which he thought went to Magnolia’s favor.
“For this game, we felt we just lost on breaks. There were some crucial moments in the last four, five minutes when we could have made some big plays, but actually, the breaks favored the other team,” Guiao said.
“On our end, I felt if we could have made our free throws, then maybe we would’ve made the game close in the endgame, but it’s part of the game. The free throws we usually make, we did not make. I think Kiefer missed five free throws and he will usually not do that.”
Fortunately for Ravena and the rest of the Road Warriors, they still have time to bounce back beginning on Friday night.
“We just have to take care of business come Friday and nothing’s more important than the game on Friday. We lost our advantage that first game. Period of adjustments. [We have] 24 hours and [we] go back to battle.”