As the lone veteran player with a PBA championship to show, Nino “KG” Canaleta said he had to take his leadership role seriously as he mentors his younger and more inexperienced Mahindra teammates in the Oppo-PBA Commissioner’s Cup.
Canaleta noted that the Enforcers still lacked the mental fortitude to keep in step with playoff-tested squads in the mid-season conference, a reason why his team faded again in the endgame on Wednesday.
Leading by 6 points with just 4 minutes left in the game, Mahindra made some bad decisions, while young playmaker LA Revilla turned the ball over twice, shifting the momentum to Rain or Shine.
Veteran sniper Jeff Chan then took over down the stretch to lead the Elasto Painters to a gut-wrenching 103-98 win over the Enforcers at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
“Iyung problema namin sa endgame talaga kasi kapag lamang kami, parang kulang sa experience. Hindi kami marunong mag-finish strong kasi biruin mo lamang kami ng 6 pts sa last 4 minutes, pero di namin na-sustain,” rued Canaleta in a post-game talk with FOX Sports.
While he understands that majority of his teammates are just slowly gaining the experience needed in the pro league, the 6-foot-6 Canaleta feels they need to grow up fast or else, it will be too late.
“Sa akin personally, hindi naman puwedeng laging ganun kasi paano kung di kami makabawi? So next conference na naman? Eh kumbaga, hangga’t kaya pa, sana magising na kami,” said the 34-year-old Mahindra wingman.
At 3-4, Mahindra still has a huge chance of barging into the playoffs for the 1st time ever in the history of the 2-year-old franchise.
But the Enforcers’ last 3 games won’t be easy picking since they will have to face the Alaska Aces next Monday, the Meralco Bolts on April 3, before closing their single-round eliminations assignment against defending champion Tropang TNT on April 9 in Puerto Princesa, Palawan.
“Pwede pa naman (to make the playoffs). Pero medyo may pressure na sa amin,” said the 5-time PBA Slam Dunk champion.
“Pipilitin namin makakuha sa huling games nami ng panalon kasi first time pa sana makapasok itong franchise ng Mahindra sa playoffs,” he added.
Canaleta won his only PBA championship back in the 2010 Philippine Cup when he was still part of the Purefoods (now Star Hotshots) that scored a 4-game sweep of Alaska in the Finals. – By Richard Dy
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