It’s been a while since Asi Taulava played in a semifinal — 2014, to be exact. So he couldn’t contain his excitement when the NLEX Road Warriors booked their first-ever semis ticket on Wednesday night.
“It feels great. We finally got here,” he said after their semis-clinching 87-83 victory over the Alaska Aces.
And for Taulava, this magical run of theirs became possible as vital pieces came along — pieces that have turned around the Manny V. Pangilinan-owned franchise’s fortunes and have carried them past the clutches of mediocrity.
“I think the biggest thing for us is the draft this year. We got Kief [Ravena] in and it was so much pleasure for us. We got a finisher in the fourth quarter that we need. Him and Kevin [Alas]. Actually, even Mike Miranda coming in,” said the 18-year league veteran.
“All these pieces finally worked for us.”
As per the league’s chief statistician Fidel Mangonon, the 45-year-old Taulava, once checked in by coach Yeng Guiao in the next phase, will be the oldest PBA cager to play in a semifinals series since 51-year-old Robert Jaworski did so back in 1997.
The Filipino-Tongan slotman is fully aware that he won’t play the same way he did in that semis of 2014, when he was still with the Air21 Express. But the only certain thing he can contribute, according to him, is his leadership.
“I just gotta let everybody know their role and their job. Wherever Coach Yeng needs me, I’ll be ready to play,” said Taulava, who averaged 2.09 points and 2.64 rebounds in the 2017-18 Philippine Cup eliminations.
“We just have to keep playing, the way we’re playing and doing things that brought us here.”