by Waylon Galvez
NLEX survived a late comeback by Alaska and escaped with a nail-biting 96-89 victory that extended its winning streak to three games in the PBA Philippine Cup last night at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
A strong start allowed the Road Warriors to dictate the game’s tempo and take a commanding 30-point advantage, 87-57, following two foul shots from rookie guard Kiefer Ravena with 9:46 left.
Alaska, however, managed to turn things around with its pressure defense, unleashing a 32-4 run capped by a basket from Carl Bryan Cruz to make it 91-89 with 13.9 seconds left. Kevin Alas split his free throws in the next play for a three-point NLEX lead, giving the Aces a chance to tie the game.
Alaska head coach Alex Compton’s designed play after the timeout was almost perfect but the crosscourt pass of Kevin Racal to Cruz went out of bounds, giving the possession back to NLEX.
Ravena sealed the win for the Road Warriors with two free throws off a Simon Enciso foul as NLEX improved its record to 5-4, moving to solo fifth at presstime.
The setback denied Alaska the top spot and fell in a tie with Magnolia for second to third places with similar 6-3 cards, trailing defending champion San Miguel Beer (6-2).
Coach Yeng Guiao expressed his disappointment despite the win, though he mentioned it was a great learning experience for his young team that is aiming for a playoff berth.
“You really need a 30-point lead to beat Alaska. There’s a reason why they got six straight wins. They’re probably due for a loss,” said Guiao.
“This win is good for us in terms of learning a lot of lessons. The two games are hard games… it helped us in keeping our composure (versus Alaska). “We’re actually very tired, we played three games in the last eight days,” added Guiao.
NLEX 96 – Alas 15, Soyud 15, Fonacier 15, Quiñahan 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.
BARANGAY GINEBRA 93 – Tenorio 27, J. Aguilar 25, Slaughter 20, Thompson 9, Ferrer 6, Cruz 6, Taha 0, Mercado 0, Caperal 0, Caguioa 0, R. Aguilar 0.
TALK N’ TEXT 78 – Castro 17, Williams 17, Pogoy 16, Tautuaa 10, Garcia 8, Reyes 2, Torres 2, Semerad 2, Tamsi 2, Paredes 2, Golla 0, Carey 0.
Quarterscores: 22-18, 44-42, 63-62, 93-78.