NLEX welcomes its Head Coach Boyet Fernandez as the Road Warriors gun for the solo lead against sister team Talk ‘N Text in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Philippine Cup on Friday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Fernandez missed the Road Warriors debut, which they won against GlobalPort, 101-96, last Tuesday because of his unfinished business as head coach of San Beda.
Fresh from steering the Red Lions to the National Collegiate Athletic Association crown against Arellano University, Fernandez steps anew into the pro arena against powerhouse Talk ‘N Text in the 4:15 p.m. game.
Opening-day loser Blackwater takes the court at 7 p.m. against Rain or Shine.
Assistant Coach Adonis Tierra subbed for Fernandez and steered the Road Warriors to the come-from-behind victory behind the clutch performances of veterans Asi Taulava and Nino Canaleta.
The 41-year-old Taulava, the oldest player in the league, made 12 of his 21 points in the final quarter, while Canaleta drilled two crucial three-pointers that helped the Road Warriors to the victory.
Fernandez had a successful stint as coach of the now-defunct Santa Lucia Realty, giving the team the Philippine Cup crown in 2008.
NLEX, which bought the Air21 franchise, is eyeing a 2-0 start at the expense of the Tropang Texters, who lost to Barangay Ginebra San Miguel, 81-101, at the start of the 40th season at the Philippine Arena in Bocuae, Bulacan, last Sunday. The Kings’ win also spoiled the coaching debut of Jong Uichico at Talk ‘N Text.
Gilas Pilipinas standouts Jimmy Alapag and Ranidel de Ocampo are still on leave and will miss three more games, including against the Road Warriors. Without the two, Uichico will be banking on Jayson Castro, Larry Fonacier, Kelly Williams, Ryan Reyes and rookies Kevin Alas and Matt Ganuelas as they try to enter the win column.
Claiming their first victory is also the target of the Elite and the Elasto Painters in the main game.
Slightly favored against fellow newcomer Kia, Blackwater had no answer to Sorento guard LA Revilla’s rampage in the second half to yield an 80-66 decision, giving boxing icon Manny Pacquiao his first win in his debut as playing-coach.
Rain or Shine, on the other hand, was beaten by San Miguel Beer, 79-87, in a game where Head Coach Yeng Guiao did not use Gabe Norwood and Chris Tiu. Norwood just arrived on Tuesday night after a much-deserved break in the United States but he is expected to suit up against the Elite. Tiu, on the other hand, is nursing a pulled hamstring.
Image credits: PBA image