By Argie Candare
Asi Taulava returns to the NLEX Road Warriors as he is set to play his final Philippine Basketball Association conference in the Governors’ Cup.
The Road Warriors reactivated the services of the veteran center for the coming import-laden tourney, which will will serve as a send-off for the 48-year-old cager.
The Fil-Tongan Taulava will become the oldest active player in the league and second oldest in history behind basketball icon Robert Jaworski, who played until he was 51 years old.
He last appeared with the Road Warriors during their bubble campaign, where he pinched in 4.33 points, 2 rebounds and 0.67 assists in limited (nine) minutes per game in three outings.
It will also mark the 22nd season for the slotman after starting his career as a direct hire of the Mobiline Phone Pals in 1999, before playing for the Coca-Cola Tigers, Meralco Bolts and Air21 Express.
The 6’9” banger will finish his career as a one-time champion (2003), 2003 MVP, 17-time AllStar, 2014 Comeback Player of the Year, Member of the 5,000 point club and 2,000 offensive rebound club. He was also included on PBA’s 40 Greatest Players.
“For his age, he’s in tip-top shape,” said NLEX coach Yeng Guiao in a statement posted in NLEX’s official website. “If he can hold his own for five, six minutes a game, that’s already a contribution.”
Meanwhile, the PBA 3×3 Lakas Ng Tatlo crowned a new leg champion in the Purefoods TJ Titans, who thwarted the Meralco Bolts, 21-16, in Sunday’s finale at the Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig.
Pao Javelona took charge with a game-high 10 points for the Titans, who took the most opportunity in their breakthrough appearance in the championship round of the three-a-side tournament.
The 6-foot guard out of National University sparked a closing 6-1 spurt by Purefoods, including three in a row that allowed the team to break free from a tight contest and finally take control, 18-15.
Big man Jun Bonsubre, a replacement for the injured Val Acuna, then capped the run with a long two to clinch the Leg 4 title and the top purse of P100,000.
“Gusto talaga naming manalo,” said Javelona, a free agent picked by Phoenix in the 2016 draft. “Kahit anong mangyari sa games, focused lang kami, bad calls man or turnovers. Basta next play kami, kasi sa 3×3 mahirap ‘pag nag-dwell ka sa mali mo. Mabilis ang laro, so magkakamali ka na, which us like double blackeye.”
Joseph Eriobu added five points, and Jed Mendoza and Bonsubre had three each to round out the scoring for Purefoods, a team with a rich winning tradition in the PBA’s 5-on-5 games.
“I’m just happy for the boys. ‘Yung hard work nila na-reward this time sa fourth leg ng 3×3,” said champion coach Tony Boy Espinosa, whose team’s highest finish in the tournament prior to winning the title was third place during the maiden leg won by TNT Tropang Giga.
Meralco, winner of Leg 2, settled for P50,000 as the quartet of Tonino Gonzaga, Alfred Batino, Joseph Sedurifa, and Dexter Maiquez and coached by Patrick Fran placed runner-up for the second time in the tournament.
In the battle for third, TNT outlasted top seed Platinum Karaoke in a thrilling finish, 21-20, to take home P30,000.