Feb 11, 2018

NLEX squanders 30-point lead but hangs on to halt Alaska win streak

NLEX almost got a dose of its own medicine Sunday.

After fashioning two straight come-from-behind wins, it was the Road Warriors' turn to see a sizable lead almost razed against the Alaska Aces.

Good thing NLEX managed to hold on and fashioned a 97-89 victory that kept its own run for a playoffs spot going in the PBA Philippine Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

The likes of Kevin Alas, Kiefer Ravena, JR Quinahan and Alex Mallari held the Road Warriors together after seeing their 87-57 lead get cut to just one possession, enabling them to emerge with their third straight win.

In all, NLEX improved to a 5-4 slate, moving it up to fifth-running spot after a game which coach Yeng Guiao said is a good learning experience for his team.

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"I thought we would have a comfortable win. But I was wrong again," said Guiao, whose side was outscored 35-17 in the final 12 minutes.

"We really needed a 30-point lead to beat Alaska, but even with a 30-point lead you're not safe."

Guiao also said the spot is one they intend to keep until the end of the 11-game eliminations. "We're 5-4 right now with two games remaining," he said.

"This is really what we wanted, to get to a spot where we'd make the next round and we're not playing a team with a twice-to-beat advantage. Iyun lang ang p'wedeng maging goal namin ngayon, which is to make the quarterfinals and get to sixth."

Teams which finish third to sixth engage in a best-of-three duels while those which wind up seventh and eighth will be saddled with a twice-to-win handicap in the quarterfinals.

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Alaska saw its six-game winning streak come to a screeching halt, but remained tied for second-running spot with Magnolia on identical 6-3 cards.

Not after giving NLEX a big scare, using the Road Warriors' 0-for-8 field shooting and five turnovers to fuel a 19-0 charge that brought the Aces within 76-87.

Carl Bryant Cruz, Calvin Abueva, Simon Enciso, Carl Bryan Cruz and Vic Manuel were at the forefront of that Alaska fightback and the latter even strung up four straight points and Cruz a short stab off his own steal to make it an 89-91 count, still 13.8 ticks to go.

Kevin Alas partly atoned for his listless fourth quarter showing in which he had four turnovers by splitting his charity to give NLEX a three-point lead before Alaska's hopes completely dimmed when Kevin Racal issued a bad inbounds pass that went out.

Ravena's charities made it a 94-89 game before Larry Fonacier sealed it with his own freebies following a Jayvee Casio three-point miss.

Alas, Fonacier and Raul Soyud all wound up with 15 points each with JR Quinahan and Ravena chipping in 12 points apiece. Ravena, who boomed in the game-winner in an 87-85 decision over Meralco just last Friday, also issued 10 assists.

Jeron Teng, Casio and Manuel all scored 12 points for Alaska and Enciso, Manuel, Cruz and Abueva 10 apiece, but the Aces, who have had ample rest following a 105-98 overtime win over GlobalPort last Feb. 4, looked like the more tired side in the first three quarters.

Showing a more balanced attack and effort, NLEX raced to a 66-36 lead in the third period and used Ravena's two charities to tote an 87-57 spread into the game's last 9:46 of play.(NC)

The scores:

NLEX 96 - Alas 15, Soyud 15, Fonacier 15, Qui?ahan 12, Ravena 12, Tiongson 8, Miranda 8, Mallari 4, Baguio 3, Al-Hussaini 2, Gotladera 2, Taulava 0.

ALASKA 89 - Teng 12, Casio 12, Manuel 12, Cruz 10, Abueva 10, Enciso 10, Exciminiano 7, Banchero 4, Thoss 4, Racal 4, Potts 3, J. Pascual 1, Baclao 0.

Quarterscores: 29-18, 52-32, 79-54, 96-89.