by Jonas Terrado
Games Tomorrow (Mall of Asia Arena)
4:30 p.m. – Columbian vs TNT KaTropa
7 p.m. – Ginebra vs Meralco
NLEX weathered not only the absence of star rookie Kiefer Ravena but a 10-point fourth quarter deficit to complete a come-from-behind 93-89 victory over winless Blackwater last night in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Import Arnett Moultrie redeemed himself from a lackluster showing coach Yeng Guiao described as “unusual” against GlobalPort two weeks ago by scoring 11 of his 26 points in the fourth quarter while Alex Mallari scored a three-pointer and a layup off a foul in the final two minutes to help the Road Warriors slam the door on the Elite.
The Road Warriors improved to 2-4 in the midseason conference, winning their first game since Ravena was handed an 18-month ban by world governing body FIBA after testing positive for three banned substances during the World Cup Qualifiers last February.
Ravena, who won’t be available until the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas receives a clarification from FIBA regarding his PBA status, watched his team carve out the comeback win alongside PBA Commissioner Willie Marcial along with NLEX officials at the Commissioner’s Row.
“It’s a good thing we were able to set aside all the distractions before this game,” said Guiao. “We actually felt bad as a team with the situation of Kiefer. His suspension had a profound effect on everyone.
“But our focus is now moving forward or moving on without Kiefer for the meantime,” he added. “This win kinda puts a little hope in our quest for at least a chance at the quarterfinals.”
Blackwater remained winless after seven games to remain at the bottom of the standings despite 25 points from Mike DiGregorio and Poy Erram making eight of his 14 points in the payoff period.
The Elite appeared to have survived their own case of adversity when Erram had to be calmed down by teammates during the third quarter. Sports5 sideline reporter Apple David later said on television that Erram was frustrated with his lack of offensive touches.
Coach Bong Ramos eventually brought back Erram, who responded by scoring six straight points at one point to give the Elite a 77-67 lead early in the fourth.
Blackwater was up 86-77 when Moultrie led a 13-0 run, ending on a Mallari triple for 90-86 NLEX advantage. Allein Maliksi and DiGregorio combined to make three of four free throws to trim the Elite margin to 90-89 before getting another chance at winning it after a stop on the ensuing possession.
NLEX 93 – Moultrie 26, Tiongson 10, Mallari 10, Fonacier 9, Rios 8, Monfort 5, Baguio 5, Marcelo 5, Soyud 5, Ighalo 5, Quinahan 3, Miranda 2.
BLACKWATER 89 – DiGregorio 25, Maliksi 16, Erram 14, Walker 12, Cortez 4, Belo 4, Al-Hussaini 4, Sumang 3, Palma 3, Zamar 2, Jose 2, Pinto 0.
Quarters: 26-18; 42-40; 67-71; 93-89.