Being up 1-0 in the 2018 PBA D-League Foundation Cup Finals isn’t new for the Che’lu Bar and Grill Revellers, as they were already in the exact same position back in the championship round of the 2018 Aspirants’ Cup.
And the Revellers know, too, that being able to draw first blood in the Finals doesn’t guarantee a thing.
Che’lu, back in the previous conference, failed to finish the task at hand and were swept by the Zark’s-Lyceum Jawbreakers in the best-of-three series, who became the first team in D-League history to win the crown as the lowest-seeded team.
But for the team’s anchor in Jeff Viernes, he believes that the Revellers have learned from that setback.
“Alam na nila kung gaano kasakit na kahit nanalo ka ng Game One tapos maback-to-back games ka, tapos ‘di mo makuha ‘yung kampeonato. Alam na nila ‘yung feeling nun, at alam nilang ayaw din nila maulit ‘yun,” said the 28-year-old.
Viernes had undoubtedly been the missing link in that Finals clash versus Zark’s-Lyceum – literally missing, as he had been called up by the GlobalPort Batang Pier in the PBA. Being signed by the Batang Pier then meant he had to forego the Finals.
But now that he has returned, Viernes feels that he can serve as a pivotal factor with his leadership.
“Siguro ‘yun ‘yung magiging factor ko ngayon,” said Viernes, a well-known import in Thailand.
“Kung minsan hindi talaga nagki-click yung mga ibang teammates ko, dun na ako para mag-step up and para i-lead sila.”
His ‘leadership’ was on display on Thursday. Viernes was the one responsible for Che’lu’s early Finals lead, scoring 34 big points to steer his side to a come-from-behind, 100-96 win over the Go for Gold Scratchers.
Now, he hopes that his Revellers will be able to exert the same energy on defense they did in Game Two, as defense had been their main weapon in demolishing the 14-point barrier Go for Gold had in the third quarter en route to the win.
“‘Yun nga ‘yung sinasabi ko eh, ‘yung determination namin na talagang kung gusto pala namin dumipensa, kayang-kaya namin. So dapat sa Game Two ma-carry over namin,” said Viernes, who also had eight rebounds and three dimes.
“Start pa lang ng first quarter dapat ganun na ka-intense ‘yung defense namin, para mas malaki ‘yung chance namin makuha ‘yung Game Two.”