MANILA, Philippines – NLEX head coach Yeng Guiao's plan of locking down Paul Lee paid dividends as the Road Warriors went up 1-0 in their best-of-7 semifinals series against the Magnolia Hotshots with an 88-87 triumph Saturday, March 10.
Guiao sent out all his guards to man Lee and it worked, with the Hotshots star guard finishing with only 8 points on a 3-of-10 shooting to go with 3 rebounds, 3 assists against 5 turnovers in nearly 27 minutes.
It was Lee's lowest scoring production after averaging 16.0 points in the last 3 games that all resulted in victories for the Hotshots.
But Guiao couldn't help but have mixed feelings as he successfully stymied the player he once helped develop.
Lee played under Guiao's tutelage for 5 years with the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters, winning two PBA titles and Mythical Five selection before being traded to the Hotshots for James Yap in 2016.
"Sobra kaming nahihirapan pero hindi mo pwedeng pigilan lahat kaya kami, ang talagang pinaghandaan namin si Paul lang," said Guiao.
(We had a really hard time but you cannot stop everyone, so we prepared solely for Paul.)
"And I find it really ironic that for 5 years, starting the first 5 years of his career in the PBA, you coached him and you nurtured him and the time comes you find a way to stop him."
Almost all of NLEX guards in Kiefer Ravena, Kevin Alas, Alex Mallari and Kenneth Ighalo took turns in guarding Lee.
"Parang dati, gustong-gusto mong mapagaling siya, ngayon naman gustong-gusto mong mapigilan siya."
(Before, I really wanted to make him better and now, I want to stop him.)
With Game 1 in the books, Guiao said they are just relishing the experience of NLEX being in the semifinals for the first time in franchise history.
"Sabi ko nga the pressure is on them, kami nage-enjoy lang kami dito. We'll just take it as far as we can take it."
(As I have said before, the pressure is on them while we just enjoy being here. We'll just take it as far as we can take it.)
Game 2 will be held on Monday, March 12, 7 pm, at the Mall of Asia Arena. – 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.