Setting decent goals before the start of the conference, Batangas head coach Eric Gonzales braced for the worst.
Parading a heavily inexperienced core, Gonzales admitted that the prospects of his side’s campaign in the 2017 PBA D-League Aspiraints’ Cup didn’t really look promising.
“I hope we won’t be blown out by a month or two,” he quipped, alluding to early preseason tuneup games where the Batanguenos found themselves routed by 30 or more points.
But after Batangas played nine games and came away with a 4-5 record, capped off with a stunning 91-69 victory over Cafe France on Monday, Gonzales had reasons to keep his head high.
Leaning on the leadership of Joseph Sedurifa and Dan Sara, the team slowly figured things out.
CJ Isit emerged as a solid rotation player for the Batanguenos while also drawing offensive contributions from diminutive Cedrick De Joya and shooter Don Carlo Fortu.
Cedrick Ablaza and Chris dela Pena provided stability in the paint, before getting huge boosts from ex-pros Jessie Saitanan and Yutien Andrada.
And when the dust settled, Gonzales could only smile knowing that the development he preached from the start didn’t fall on deaf ears.
“We definitely got something from this experience and we usually talk on the collective growth of the team, that slowly, we’re seeing them improve,” he said.
Batangas may be different from the Phoenix team Gonzales steered to two D-League titles last season, but he’s elated to see the results of his handwork with little known players getting the exposure they badly crave for while also testing their mettle against some of the best amateur cagers in the country.
“I’m thankful because the seeds we planted are slowly sprouting,” he said.
The job, though, doesn’t stop here for Gonzales as Batangas is set for another go-round in the Foundation Cup this May.
“We really have to prepare for that. Our players are still adapting to the way the game here is played, so we just have to do things and provide continuous reminders,” he said. “Hopefully, we become better next conference.”