By Elmer Manuel
NLEX bucked the furious rally put up by Alaska in the payoff period to hold on to a 96-89 victory in the PBA Philippine Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum last night.
The Road Warriors weathered the incredible run of the Aces – a crippling 32-4 salvo that saw their 30-point advantage almost go up in smoke before managing to stop the bleeding and walk away with the win.
NLEX improved to a 5-4 win-loss record as it notched its third straight victory, while snapping Alaska’s impressive six-game winning run.
Kevin Alas made up for some miscues with crucial charities, while Raul Soyud sparked the early surge for the Road Warriors before almost throwing away everything in the final quarter.
NLEX coach Yeng Guiao was visibly relieved after the final buzzer.
“I thought we would have a comfortable win, but I was wrong again,” Guiao said after the game. “You really need a 30-point lead to beat Alaska. There’s a reason why they got six straight wins, and they were just probably due for a loss.”
The Road Warriors had an 87-57 advantage with 9:46 left, but the Aces pulled to within two, 91-89, in the last 13.9 seconds before Alas, Kiefer Ravena and Larry Fonacier hit free throws to seal the deal.
Down by only three, 92-89, with 11.6 ticks left, Alaska committed a costly turnover after Kevin Racal’s inbound pass went too strong.
Alas finished with 15 points, eight rebounds, and two assists, while Fonacier and Soyud contributed 15 points each.
Ravena had a near triple-double effort with 12 markers, 10 assists, and six boards, while JR Quiñahan got 12 points, five dimes, and four rebounds for NLEX.
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.
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