ANTIPOLO CITY, Philippines – A costly missed foul shot turned into a blessing in disguise for Kiefer Ravena as NLEX completed a remarkable comeback to clinch the playoff bonus in the PBA Governors' Cup.
NLEX erased a 26-point deficit before nipping Magnolia, 86-85, on Sunday, November 10, for its fifth straight win and eighth overall in 9 games, and it had a lot do with Ravena misfiring from the charity stripe.
With NLEX down 83-85 with 2.3 ticks left, Ravena could have easily forged overtime after he was fouled by Mark Barroca and sent to the free throw line.
Ravena canned the first foul shot but missed the second – almost dashing all hopes that NLEX will remain atop the team standings since a loss meant that Meralco, which totes an 8-2 card, will seize the No. 1 spot.
Fortunately, Poy Erram tapped the ball away from Magnolia before Jericho Cruz collared the offensive board and sank the putback that settled the score.
"When I was fouled, I thought to myself, 'Here we go again with the free throws,'" said Ravena, who is averaging 69% with his foul shots in the season-ending conference, in a mix of Filipino and English.
"So when I made the first free throw, I was able to calm myself down. When I missed the second, I was stunned when Jericho hit the shot because there was only point-something left on the clock before they adjusted it."
Despite the stunning win, Ravena was hard on himself following the miss, saying he cannot afford to make such mistakes, particularly in crunch time.
"I'm already a pro so I can't be having moments like that again. It's not acceptable for me, for my teammates, especially when they count on you in the endgame but when it comes to free throws, you're going to miss."
Ravena added: "It's a big deal for me missing those type of shots. I can understand when I miss a shot attempt but free throws? It's something that I take personal."
"I've been criticized with my free throws all throughout my career so I think I have a big responsibility on that. I have to get back to practice and take more free throws, I guess."
For a team that has not made the quarterfinals for the last 4 conferences, Ravena said the victory was a morale-booster as NLEX looks to make a splash in the playoffs.
"We're really inexperienced so we need these kinds of wins, we need to grind out these kind of games. This is a big character win for us."
NLEX looks to further strengthen its grip on the No. 1 spot when it meets NorthPort on Wednesday, November 13, at the Araneta Coliseum. – Rappler.com
Delfin Dioquino dreamt of being a PBA player, but he did not have the skills to make it. So he pursued the next best thing to being an athlete – to write about them. He took up journalism at the University of Santo Tomas and joined Rappler as soon as he graduated in 2017.