Rookie Kiefer Ravena took charge like a grizzled veteran in the crunch, delivering a bunch of to-die-for baskets as NLEX pulled off a nerve-wracking 87-85 win over Meralco to further boost its playoff drive in the PBA Philippine Cup at the Cuneta Astrodome Friday night.
"Kiefer just made the big shots like a veteran, like somebody who is a 10-year veteran in the league. I had no hesitation setting up the plays for him because I knew he would make the right decision," said Guiao.
Ravena made one clutch shot after another, including the game-winning turnaround basket off Chris Newsome with nine-tenths of a second left.
The crowd erupted and the NLEX bench whooped it up as the Bolts could no longer make a decent last shot, allowing the Road Warriors to catch up with the Phoenix Fuel Masters, the TNT KaTropa Texters and the Barangay Ginebra Kings at fifth place at 4-4.
The Bolts blew an early 18-point bulge and a 10-point spread in the last five minutes of play as they reeled to a sixth loss against two wins.
"We haven't had an easy game in the last two games we played. Those were hard wins, and we just got lucky on both times," said NLEX coach Yeng Guiao, lauding Ravena for saving the game for them against Meralco.
Ravena scored nine of his 21 points in the fourth quarter, striking hardest at the finish to personally clinch a second straight win for NLEX following an 81-78 decision over Ginebra the last time out.
"I don't like winning this way. It's good for the fans but bad for the coaches," said Guiao. "Pahirap ng pahirap ang mga laro namin, and we have another one coming up against Alaska Sunday."
Aside from Ravena's clutch performance, Guiao mentioned their second-quarter chase as the big key.
"We had a good rally in the second quarter that kept us in the game. After a bad start, we recovered and seized a one-point lead at the half. We kept ourselves in the game and gave us a chance in the end," said Guiao.
Ravena himself led their second-quarter onslaught that saw NLEX wipe out an 8-26 deficit and take a 38-37 edge into the second half.
The Bolts regained a double-digit advantage at 82-72 entering the last four minutes of the game. But the Batang Pier still proved to have a lot of fight in them.
Ravena starred in a 15-2 finishing kick to disappoint the Bolts.
One highlight shot by the former Ateneo hotshot was a booming trey that pushed the Road Warriors ahead at 83-82.
Meralco threatened to send the game into overtime as Newsome came through with a three-point play off Ravena to tie the count at 85 with 15.3 ticks to go.
Ravena, however, made up for a defensive lapse with an offensive gem in the dying seconds to preserve his heroics. (SB)
PHOENIX 74 - Wright 16, Chan 11, Alolino 10, Perkins 8, Kramer 8, Wilson 8, Jazul 5, Chua 4, Mendoza 4, Dehesa 0, Cortes 0, Eriobu 0, Intal 0, Revilla 0.
TNT 72 - Semerad 12, Pogoy 10, Castro 9, Tautuaa 9, Williams 8, Tamsi 5, Reyes 5, Carey 4, Rosario 4, Garcia 3, Torres 3.
Quarters: 20-24, 30-40, 56-61, 74-72.