In the recently concluded, four-team pocket tournament held at The Upper Deck, the best performance of the NLEX Road Warriors came during the third quarter of their opening game against the Alaska Aces.
In that period, the Road Warriors outscored the Aces 35-21, turning a 10-point halftime deficit to a four-point lead heading into the final quarter. During the NLEX rally, the team’s oldest player was on the floor with their incoming rookie.
“It’s about combining the old and the new, that’s our objective,” said head coach Yeng Guiao after that game. “It’s a conscious effort in trying to find the balance. On one hand is the experience and the maturity and on the other hand is the youth, the aggression, the physical attributes of the young guys.”
According to Guiao, it’s an objective born out of necessity as they try to find more ways to get more wins.
“We’re still trying to find everything that can help us. We are not one of the most talented teams. Nandiyan pa rin yung SMB, Ginebra, at TNT. If you want to be competitive against those teams, you have to find something that you can capitalize on and for us, it’s the combination of the veterans and the young guys.”
Luckily for Guiao, Asi Taulava and Kiefer Ravena are both eager to work towards their coach’s objective.
“I love watching the young guys play. I’m a big fan seeing them move, especially with Kiefer coming from Gilas,” Taulava said. “I like how he fits into our system because it’s not just about the individual talent and the skills. He’s playing very well in coach Yeng’s system.”
In the game against the Aces, it was noticeable the Road Warriors are putting a premium on their running game and even Taulava’s 44-year-old legs look ready for a fast-paced attack.
“It’s fun to finally get out there and run. I have not done that in a long time. I guess what adds motivation to it is Kiefer being on the team. I’ve been waiting for so long to play alongside him,” said Taulava.
“Yun yung hindi ko pa rin mapaniwalaan na nangyari, na posible pala mangyari yun,” Ravena said about playing alongside someone 20 years his senior and a former teammate of his father Bong.
“I think that shows the professionalism of an Asi Taulava. He was able to take care of his body and extend his career to 20 years. It’s an honor to play for the franchise alongside someone who won a championship with my dad. They have a lot of stories together and I hope we’ll also have our stories to share in the future.”
Taulava shares Ravena’s yearning for a PBA title but with his career on its dusk, a championship with NLEX will surely be cherished more by the veteran.
“The last championship I won was with his dad and I’m hoping I can win one with Kief. I may not have as many championships as other guys in the league but it will value winning one even more,” said Taulava. “Winning a PBA championship with a father and then with his son 15 years later will never happen again.”