NLEX using early exit as motivation heading into bubble
MANILA, Philippines — NLEX’s campaign last season ended in disappointment after the Road Warriors got bounced in the first round of the Governors’ Cup playoffs despite being the top seed.
It was a painful experience but head coach Yeng Guiao said his team already learned its lesson and that the Road Warriors are now targeting to make the semifinals first once the PBA Philippine Cup resumes in Clark, Pampanga.
“We have high expectations and we’re hoping that we can make it to the semifinals,” said Guiao in a Zoom conversation with Inquirer Sunday. “That memory becomes a part of your experience and your wisdom has grown because of that. It’s within you, it’s something that becomes part of your team.”
“Of course we’re disappointed because we’re the No. 1 seed that we didn’t make it to the next round and that also motivates us.”
The Road Warriors, who finished with an 8-3 record, held a twice-to-beat advantage over No. 8 NorthPort but the Batang Pier pulled off the major upset behind their Best Player of the Conference Christian Standhardinger.
Nevertheless, Guiao said that the Road Warriors are ready to move on with the core comprised of Kiefer Ravena, Kevin Alas, Jericho Cruz, and JR Quiñahan.
“We’re a strong team, and we know we can make it that far but we have to finish,” said Guiao. “Aside from the experience of knowing you can play at that level it’s a motivation and you make the same mistake again.”
Reaching their goal, however, will require some personal sacrifices.
Once the players arrive in the bubble on Sept. 26, the only time they can go back is if they’ve been eliminated from contention.
This scenario leaves a couple of Road Warriors who have to sacrifice familial duties.
Kenneth Ighalo is expecting a baby in October while Kevin Alas was recently married to longtime girlfriend Selina Dagdag earlier this month.
“You’re doing it for your family and for sure Selina understands the situation,” said Guiao. “The two months will go by quickly and before Christmas Kevin will be back because of course we’re expecting to go deep in the playoffs.”
“Iggy is also expecting a baby this October, and the problem is once you go out of the bubble you can’t go back in. There are sacrifices to be made and they accept that.”
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