MANILA, Philippines -- Their campaign ended far earlier than they would like but NLEX coach Yeng Guiao sees plenty of reasons to be optimistic about the future of the Road Warriors.
Chief among them is the continued development of sophomore forward Calvin Oftana, who emerged as the team's No. 1 scoring option during the 2022 PBA Philippine Cup. The former NCAA Most Valuable Player averaged 16.5 points and 7.8 rebounds per game in the elimination round, where NLEX went 6-5.
He raised his game to another level in the Road Warriors' overtime loss to the Magnolia Hotshots last Saturday, dropping 32 points on top of nine boards, three assists, and three steals in 43 minutes.
His efforts weren't enough to keep NLEX from absorbing a conference-ending 112-106 defeat, but Guiao had nothing but praise for his young forward who was crucial in keeping the Road Warriors afloat against the Hotshots.
"I could not ask for more from Calvin," said Guiao after their loss. "He played extended minutes, he was the top-scorer of the game. He made big shots, and he played both ends."
The long minutes he played likely took a toll on Oftana, said Guiao, as the forward struggled defensively in the overtime period where he twice gave up lay-ups to Magnolia guard Jio Jalalon. He also missed all four shots that he took in the extra session.
"Siguro, napagod na rin sa bandang huli, kasi siya 'yung tumatao kay Jalalon. Nalusutan siya dalawang beses yata on lay-ups," said Guiao. "May binato pang tsambang banda si Jalalon. Of course, kasama nasa mga breaks 'yun."
Guiao had mapped out their final play in regulation for Oftana but it was snuffed out by the Hotshots, with Jalalon forcing a turnover that led to overtime.
Still, Oftana's strong performance in the conference along with NLEX's campaign as a whole gives Guiao confidence for their future.
"Mayroon pa namang susunod na conference," he said. "Subukan na lang natin sa susunod."