PBA: Yeng Guiao lauds rookie Oftana after game-winner

Camille B. Naredo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 30 2021 12:49 PM

Rookie forward Calvin Oftana puts up the game-winning layup for NLEX. PBA Media Bureau.
Rookie forward Calvin Oftana puts up the game-winning layup for NLEX. PBA Media Bureau.

MANILA, Philippines -- A week after breaking the rookie record for most three-pointers in a game, NLEX forward Calvin Oftana added another play to his highlight reel.

With the Road Warriors facing elimination against the second-seeded Meralco Bolts, Oftana converted the go-ahead layup with six seconds left to tow NLEX to an 81-80 triumph in their quarterfinal game.

The thrilling victory allowed NLEX to stay alive in the 2021 PBA Philippine Cup, as they forced a do-or-die game against the Bolts for a spot in the semifinals.

"It was intended for him," NLEX coach Yeng Guiao said of their final play, which saw Jericho Cruz fire a superb pass to the cutting Oftana, who shook off the defense of Meralco's Bong Quinto for the game-winning layup.

"If we had Kiefer (Ravena) with us, that would have been for Kiefer," added the coach. "But he (Oftana) stepped into the shoes of Kiefer, and he's done excellently so far."

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Oftana finished with 12 points, nine rebounds, five assists and two steals in over 32 minutes of action. 

Just a week ago -- also against Meralco -- Oftana fired a career-high 34 points built on eight-of-11 shooting from beyond the arc. His eight three-pointers broke a 34-year-old rookie record held by legendary scorer Allan Caidic.

For Guiao, Oftana's effort against the Bolts in their quarterfinal game was a sign that their rookie is becoming more mature and learning the PBA game.

"He has all the attributes, he has the basketball body, he has the athletic ability. He has the composure," Guiao said of Oftana, a former NCAA Most Valuable Player from San Beda University whom NLEX took with the third pick in the PBA Rookie Draft.

"All rookies will go through a point where they will have to make mistakes first before they get better. So he's in that point," he explained. "But he's a very special player, and we're very lucky we were able to draft him."

Guiao pointed out that Oftana "made a couple of mistakes" in the endgame -- including giving up an offensive rebound to Quinto with some 11 seconds to go that could have spelled the end of NLEX's season. Fortunately for the Road Warriors, Mac Belo muffed two free throws that could have extended Meralco's lead, paving the way for Oftana's late-game heroics.

"That's the way rookies are developed, that's the way rookies mature. So despite his lapses and misjudgments on defense, he came out and gave us the winning basket. So what more can you ask for?" said Guiao.

The Road Warriors play Meralco in a do-or-die game on Friday at the Don Honorio Ventura State University Gym in Bacolor, Pampanga, with the winner advancing to the semifinals.