PBA: NLEX coach Guiao hails rookies' efforts in breakthrough win

Camille B. Naredo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 02 2020 09:04 PM

PBA: NLEX coach Guiao hails rookies' efforts in breakthrough win 1
NLEX's rookie big man Will McAloney attacks the defense of TNT's Troy Rosario. PBA Media Bureau

MANILA, Philippines -- In the last game played before the PBA halted the All-Filipino Cup to reinforce its COVID-19 protocols, the NLEX Road Warriors pulled off a shock 109-98 victory over the erstwhile unbeaten TNT Tropang Giga.

NLEX was 1-5 heading to last Thursday's game, with back to back losses to Meralco and Phoenix Super LPG. But they played superbly against TNT, using a big second quarter to get back in the game before outplaying the Tropang Giga in the second half.

Much of the praise rightly went to Kevin Alas, who shrugged off a bloody nose to put up 24 points and six rebounds. Jericho Cruz had 19 points, and Kiefer Ravena had 16 points and nine rebounds.

But NLEX coach Yeng Guiao was also impressed by the performances of his rookies, Mike Ayonayon and Will McAloney. The pair combined for 14 points and six rebounds, with McAloney providing a burly presence in the frontline, while Ayonayon contributed solid minutes in the backcourt.

Guiao said he was not surprised to see Ayonayon's strong play, particularly his confidence in attacking TNT's Jayson Castro.

"To do that against Jayson Castro, I think it's even more noteworthy," said the veteran coach. "Alam niya napakagaling nung tumatao sa kaniya, pero he's just able to attack the basket and finish strong and be able to lead the team in crucial sequences, crucial portions of the game."

Ayonayon manned the point while Alas was resting, especially after having his nose whacked just before halftime. That his rookie guard showed no fear in taking on the responsibility impressed Guiao.

"Si Kevin medyo pinahinga ko muna dahil nagdugo 'yung ilong nung half time. So most of the time, Mike had to take over the point guard position and he did it really well," he said.

McAloney, meanwhile, has begun to earn Guiao's trust after playing only spot minutes in their first few games of the conference. In their loss to the Fuel Masters, the rookie big man scored 14 points on 6-of-8 shooting in 25 minutes of action.

Guiao also vehemently defended McAloney after his involvement in a physical play that saw TNT swingman Ray Parks hit the deck. Tempers flared after the incident, with veteran forward Jay Washington confronting Guiao and the NLEX bench.

"Will McAloney, he had no bad intentions," Guiao said. "And then, ewan ko kung binu-bully niya noon o ini-intimidate niya si Will. Will is a rookie and he had no bad intentions."

"Will has no bad bone in his body; he just plays every time. To those who know him, how he plays in the MPBL, he's just a rugged player, he doesn't really look to harm anybody," he added.

With the win against TNT, NLEX improved to 2-5, boosting their chances of staying in the playoff hunt in the All-Filipino Cup. 

"On our side, we're just trying get better. Every game we're just trying to get better, just trying to get better in practices," said Guiao. "Ngayon lang namin nakukuha 'yung hangin namin, but I hope it's not too late. I hope it's not too late, but we'll just try to win as many games as we can and try to get better every day."

NLEX returns to action on Wednesday against Rain or Shine.