Kevin Alas hasn’t forgotten about the disappointing campaign he and NLEX had in the PBA Philippine Cup bubble last year in Clark, Pampanga.
The Road Warriors absorbed a string of losses early in the conference but were able to collect the needed wins to vie for the last quarterfinal spot.
Their fate wasn’t entirely in their hands, though. And their prayers went unanswered as the scenario they hoped for did not happen.
The MVP Group-owned ball club needed Rain or Shine to lose versus TNT and Phoenix, then win versus Terrafirma to force a playoff for no. 8. However, the Elasto Painters shut it down by beating the Tropang Giga.
Alas, who was among the team’s top performers in Clark, isn’t one to dwell on the past. But that’s definitely an added push for the new cage wars.
“Ang iniisip ko ‘yung last conference na hindi kami pumasok ng playoffs,” said the 29-year-old, who’s now in his eighth season in the pros.
“Of course, that’s added motivation for us, na we have to improve from that.”
Learning from bitter lessons such as that was evident on Sunday. The Road Warriors suffered an opening day loss to the same team that crushed their hopes last year. But they then redeemed themselves versus none other than the reigning champs.
NLEX beat the debuting Barangay Ginebra San Miguel, 94-75, to join the winner’s circle of the 2021 Philippine Cup.
Alas himself was at the forefront of the victory with a game-high 20 points, spiked by three triples. He also had three assists, two rebounds, a steal, and a block in 33 minutes and 33 seconds.
“Of course, happy,” expressed the 6-foot guard.
“Masayang-masaya kami, kasi defending champions ‘yung tinalo namin.”
As elated as they feel with the triumph, Alas and Co. already have their sights set for Friday’s game versus erstwhile all-Filipino champs San Miguel Beer.
“‘Yung approach namin is game by game. Next game namin is San Miguel, so another powerhouse team. I’m sure our coaches will prepare for a good game plan to limit June Mar [Fajardo], to limit CJ [Perez], to limit [Marcio] Lassiter, [Alex] Cabagnot,” he said.
“Of course, it won’t be easy. But ang goal namin is to compete with the elite teams. Kanina we competed with Ginebra, then next is San Miguel.”