For two straight games, the NLEX Road Warriors lived up to their moniker by showing a no-quit character in pulling off tough come from behind victories against highly-fancied teams.
More than two weeks ago, the Road Warriors defeated crowd favorite Barangay Ginebra San Miguel in Dubai, which saw Yeng Guiao and his troops rallying from 28 points. They managed to bring down the league’s crowd darlings, who were cheered on by its hostile fans in the biggest city in the United Arab Emirates.
On Sunday, the Road Warriors returned and faced yet another acid test, this time against the reigning Governors’ Cup champion Magnolia Hotshots.
The Road Warriors had a similar experience against the Gin Kings as the former had to battle back from 26 points down in the first half before getting their acts together in the next 24 minutes of play and snatching a win off a last-second follow-up by Jericho Cruz.
Guiao believes the team’s 8-1 surge to top the elimination round is a combination of luck and determination.
“Siguro, swerte rin talaga kami. Masarap maglaro ng may halong swerte,” Guiao told FOX Sports Philippines. “But on the other hand, siguro mayroon rin kaming ginagawang tama. Twice na nangyari ito sa amin. Looking at the ratio ng swerte at malas namin, mas lamang pa rin yung malas kaysa sa swerte.”
Over the past three seasons, NLEX has been battered by several unfortunate incidents.
The 18-month suspension on Kiefer Ravena after testing positive from a banned substance, was certainly a big blow to the Road Warriors’ previous campaigns, so as the injuries to key players like Kevin Alas and Poy Erram.
This time, Guiao and the Road Warriors are trying to seize the moment.
“Maaring may swerte kami ngayon, pero yung swerte na yan, kung wala ka ring determination to win, hindi rin magiging successful yung campaign namin,” added Guiao. “Dati, target namin is maka-semis lang kami, pero ang sabi ko nga sa mga players, mag-ambisyon na tayo. Tutal, No.1 na tayo.”
A day after pulling the rug from under the Hotshots, the Road Warriors immediately returned to practice and did not rest on their laurels to wrap up their elimination round campaign.
They will be playing the NorthPort Batang Pier on Wednesday and will return a week later for their last elimination round game.
“If we want to enjoy our rest, then we have to do it after the game against NorthPort where we’re going to have a week of rest, and after that, we will take a break for the SEA Games, so we’re going to have another long break. Lubusin na natin,” added Guiao.
Guiao never had this kind of winning moment for a long time, but he refused to get carried away by the fact that they’re the No.1 team.
“If we think we’re special, then we have to prove we are special. Somehow, that’s what the players had proven in our last two wins. Siguro naman, at this time, may karapatan na kaming mag-ambisyon,” he added.
In his coaching career, Guiao won his first ever championship with Swift in his ninth conference. The fiery mentor, who won seven titles coaching three different teams, is currently on his ninth conference with NLEX, which is now in a better position to go all the way.