Globalport’s emerging stars ran wild with youthful abandon for more than three quarters of the game last night until a pair of NLEX oldtimers decided to put an end to the merrymaking.
Former MVP Asi Taulava poured 12 of his 21 points in the fourth quarter and KG Canaleta buried back-to-back three-pointers in the last 2:10 as NLEX spoiled the pro debut of No. 1 draft pick Stanley Pringle, downing Globalport, 101-96, in the PBA Philippine Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
NLEX trailed, 89-80, with five minutes remaining as Terrence Romeo, Alex Cabagnot and Pringle sustained a torrid outside shooting anchored on their one-on-one brilliance and shake-and-bake moves. But the Road Warriors , who bought the Air21 Express franchise during the off-season, turned to an old-fashioned 2-3 zone and then left disciplining of the Batang Pier at the hands of a couple of veterans.
Taulava, the oldest player in the league at 41, showed that his reputation as an unreliable free throw shooter is unwarranted by going 13 of 17 from the line overall, completing two key three-point plays in a 17-3 run that wiped out an 89-80 deficit and put them ahead to stay, 97-92.
The first goal-and-one off Yancy de Ocampo shoved NLEX within 89-88 before Romeo and Canaleta traded 3-pointers, while the second, against Noy Baclao, wrested the lead away from Globalport, 94-92, with 1:42 remaining. Canaleta, who is 32, then drilled another from beyond the arc, sparking the Road Warriors bench into their own frenzied celebration.
“We just believed in ourselves, we executed our plays and we forced them to take long shots,” said Taulava. “We tried to control the game with our half court sets. We buckled down on defense because they live and die with the three-point line.”
Romeo had 33 points after taking a total of 26 shots, while Cabagnot had 23 and Pringle 14 although both were scoreless against the zone in the fourth quarter. Globalport also went 1 of 8 from 3-point range in the last 12 minutes.
“We had three players rotating on Pringle in the first half but still couldn’t stop him. That’s when we decided to go on a 2-3 zone in the fourth to stop the penetration of their small guys and pick and roll plays sa ibabaw,” said NLEX assistant Adonis Tierra, who called the shots in lieu of head coach Boyet Fernandez, the San Beda Red Lions mentor, until the NCAA Finals are over.
A Romeo drive kept Globalport in the game, 99-96, with 26 seconds left, and the Batang Pier regained possession when Mark Cardona lost the ball on the drive. But Cabagnot wavered between taking a pull-up triple or crossing-over Canaleta in transition and committed a travelling violation.
Meanwhile, Purefoods Star (formerly San Mig Super Coffee), opens its defense of the conference title when it takes on Alaska at 7 p.m. today, while Meralco and Barako Bull, both with new coaches, make their debut at 4:15 p.m.
After completing the Grand Slam last season and bagging their fourth consecutive championship, the Mixers reverted to the brand name which created waves as a franchise neophyte in 1988. The Hotshots now resume their mission of winning five in a row to come within one title of matching the long-standing record of the legendary Crispa Redmanizers during the league’s fledgling years in the 70s.
The Alaska Aces will be an early acid test, with Fil-Am rookie Chris Banchero joining Calvin Abueva, JV Casio and Sonny Thoss in looking to thwart Puefoods.
Norman Black, meantime, will take the bench as Meralco coach for the first time after his stint at Talk ‘N Text, while Koy Banal, who took over after Siot Tanquingcen stepped down as coach of Barako Bull on the eve of the PBA opening Sunday, will be steering the Energy.
NLEX 101 – Taulava 21, Cardona 20, Ramos 16, Villanueva 11, Borboran 9, Canaleta 8, Villanueva 8, Raymundo 5, Camson 2, Villarias 1, Poligrates 0, Apinan 0, Baloria 0.
GLOBALPORT 96 – Romeo 33, Cabagnot 23, Pringle 14, Buenafe 6, Nabong 6, De Ocampo 6, Baclao 4, Isip 2, Jensen 2, Taha 0, Duncil 0, Ponferada 0, Cabrera 0.
Quarters: 25-29, 47-53, 70-76, 101-96.