Manila, Philippines – The NLEX Road Warriors made sure they would complete their comeback this time.
Four days after falling short against the Talk ‘N Text Tropang Texters, the Road Warriors battled back from 21 points down to stun the San Miguel Beermen, 100-93, last night in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup at the Cuneta Astrodome.
NLEX trailed 64-43 in the third but import Al Thornton and locals Jonas Villanueva and Mark Borboran orchestrated the big rally to deal San Miguel a crushing defeat.
The trio scored 29 of the team’s 42 points in the payoff, helping the Road Warriors erase the bitter memory of their 98-96 setback to the Tropang Texters.
In that game, NLEX was down 29 points but came back strong to tie the game at 96-all with nine seconds remaining, only for TNT’s Jayson Castro to spoil the rally by hitting a buzzer-beating jumper.
“Again, it’s not on me. It’s the players… the players won game. Credit the players. Their effort was really unbelievable. We’re happy that we came back,” said NLEX Coach Boyet Fernandez, whose team won for just the second time in six outings this conference.
Fernandez said the turning point was when they played zone, which allowed them to contain SMB’s 6-foot-10 center June Mar Fajardo and import AZ Reid, as well as pressure the ball handlers of the Beermen.
“It was like the TNT game, but at least we came out as winners this time. From the start of the game, I was reminding the players. If we can do it against TNT, we also capable of winning against SMB,” added Fernandez.
Thornton scored half of his 30 points in the fourth while grabbing 12 rebounds, Asi Taulava had 20 points and seven rebounds, while Villanueva added 15 markers for the Road Warriors.
San Miguel led 85-73 with eight minutes to play when NLEX’s KG Canaleta sparked a 13-0 run with a triple. Borboran, who scored all of his eight points in the period, completed the blitz with five straight points to give the Road Warriors the lead, 86-85, with 4:05 remaining.
The Beermen took their last lead at 88-86 on Chris Lutz’s trey, but Villanueva made it 88-all on two free throws. Thornton then sank two free throws of his own to put NLEX ahead for good at 90-88 with 2:31 remaining.
NLEX 100 – Thornton 30, Taulava 20, J. Villanueva 15, Cardona 9, Borboran 8, Canaleta 6, Lingganay 6, E. Villanueva 2, Ramos 2, Apinan 2, Raymundo 0, H. Arboleda 0.
San Miguel Beer 93 – Reid 27, Santos 20, Kramer 15, Lutz 10, Fajardo 10, Cabagnot 6, Ross 2, Lassiter 2, Tubid 1.
Quarters: 14-26; 33-46; 58-75; 100-93.