Friday night’s NLEX-Meralco clash was more than just a battle of two Manny V. Pangilinan-owned teams. It had basically turned into an Ateneo showcase, considering the amount of former Blue Eagles who graced the court of the Cuneta Astrodome.
A total of eight Ateneans saw action in Friday’s bout. The Road Warriors had more with six — Larry Fonacier, Juami Tiongson, Emman Monfort, Rabeh Al-Hussaini, Alfonzo Gotladera, and top rookie Kiefer Ravena. The Bolts, on the other hand, had two in Chris Newsome and Nico Salva.
But the night belonged to the highly-touted Ravena and the five-year pro Salva, who enjoyed two UAAP titles together under the tutelage of former Ateneo head coach and Salva’s current mentor in Meralco, Norman Black.
Salva was the brightest spot for the Orangemen as he, after five years in the pros, finally had a career-best outing with 20 points on an excellent 9-of-12 shooting to go with a pair of rebounds in over 23 minutes of playing time.
“He played well tonight. I was happy for him,” praised Black. “Everybody’s looking for confidence, everybody’s trying to get better and improve and he works hard everyday in practice so I’m happy he was able to do well tonight.”
However, Ravena spoiled Salva’s night. He sunk the game-winning jumper over Newsome to lift the Road Warriors to an 87-85 win, and he finished the night with 21 points on 7-of-12 shooting with seven rebounds and four assists.
“Whenever you lose it’s not a good feeling, whether it’s Kiefer or anybody else make any shot to help you lose the game… How do I feel? I feel really great that he hit the game-winning shot to make me lose,” said Black in jest.
“He’s a good player. If he can step up and make that type of shot, then he deserves whatever credit you give him,” he added. “He’s always been a good player, he’s always been a clutch player.
“He’s one of the more intelligent players in the PBA.”
Black would have gone sentimental with the collection of Ateneans Friday, with one of them turning to an outing that defeated him. It was otherwise though, as Black feels like his former players have played well against him lately.
“It seems like every former player I go up against these days plays well against me,” quipped the 60-year-old bench strategist, who has been coaching in the league for nearly 33 years now.
“What can I say? Rabeh also played well tonight. Kelly Nabong played well, [Jonathan] Grey played well, [Ed] Daquioag played well so there seems to be a pattern. But it also shows I coached a lot of players.
“That’s basically what it means,” added Black.