Picanto didn’t need Standhardinger to keep up with Road Warriors
Norman Lee Benjamin Riego on Dec 20, 2017 08:39 PM
Kia gave NLEX all it could handle
NLEX needed a super rookie showing from Kiefer Ravena and a clutch four-point play from Larry Fonacier to fend off lowly Kia on Wednesday.
Yes, “The Phenom” was the headline with 18 points, 12 rebounds, seven assists, and two steals in his professional debut, but all of it was all for naught as the Picanto nearly pulled off a big-time upset.
Inside the last 60 seconds, the Road Warriors, widely-regarded as the tournament’s darkhorse, was only boosted ahead once and for all by Fonacier’s long-range bomb and bonus.
At the end of it all, falling short was not so bad for a Kia side that had all of six wins and no playoff appearance for all of last season.
Even more so for a Kia side that was awarded the top pick in the 2017 PBA Draft only to trade what turned out to be game-changing Christian Standhardinger for a so-called unconventional package of Rashawn McCarthy, Jay-R Reyes, and Ronald Tubid.
That was exactly what was on the mind of head coach Chris Gavina post-game. “As a coach, you kind of hate to say moral victory, but considering what happened to us last conference, (it’s good to see) we showed our grit tonight,” he said.
He then continued, “We showed a great deal of character in being able to keep up with what I feel is one of the contenders coming into this conference. If we can do this against NLEX, we can do this against anybody.”
Specifically, Gavina said he loved the heart and hustle he saw from each and every one of his wards. “Effort-wise, we were there,” he expressed.
Indeed, the Picanto won the battle of offensive rebounds, 17-10, as well as steals, 8-6.
That effort led to the lowly squad being in command for majority of the matchup only to be outdone in edgame execution. “It just came down to the end where they executed better than us, but for us to control the time with the lead for 32 minutes, this goes to show that we’re more than capable of keeping up with a team like NLEX,” Gavina said.
In the end, Kia believes that this inspiring debut just proved that they are serious about competing and winning. As team-high scorer Eric Camson put it, “Iba na talaga ang Kia ngayon, ‘di na tulad ng dati. Iniisip nilang ‘di kami mananalo, pero nasa isip namin, bago nila kami talunin, duduguin muna sila.”
He then continued, “Sobrang willing kaming ipakita na pag Kia, ‘di ganun kadali kalaban. Kung matalo man, mahihirapan ang kalaban.”
Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo.