Barako Bull import Liam Paul McMorrow got some help from NLEX on one crucial play late in the game last night. But the 7-foot-2 Canadian took care of business on his own when a second opportunity came along.
Brought in after former import Solomon Alabi begged off to be with his pregnant fiancé, McMorrow debuted with 33 points and 22 rebounds to lead the Energy past the NLEX Road Warriors, 101-96, last night in the PBA Governors’ Cup at the Mall of Asia Arena
He played 42:07 minutes, shot 11 of 14 around the basket, was 11 of 16 from the free throw line and demonstrated remarkable acumen that should serve the Energy well this conference.
Two key plays that went Barako Bull’s way featured McMorrow making things happen.
With 1:17 remaining and the Energy ahead, 97-92, McMorrow rose to grab a lob pass but was challenged by NLEX forward KG Canaleta, with the ball getting tipped into the basket off Canaleta’s fingers.
Then, after NLEX closed to within 99-96 following consecutive hits by Mac Cardona and Jonas Villanueva, the Energy bled the shot clock but left Chico Lanete with nothing more than a contested 3-point heave that fell about two feet short from the basket.
McMorrow, however, wriggled free from a crowd of bodies looking to rebound the miss, snatched the ball in midair and somehow managed to twist his hulking frame and bank in a shot with 13 seconds remaining.
A neck injury to suffered by Syrian import Michael Madanly towards the end of the third quarter may have cost NLEX a sensational comeback win.
Madanly, who led NLEX with 26 points, rallied the Road Warriors from 22 points down to seize the upper hand before colliding heads with Barako Bull shooter Dylan Ababou with 1:13 left in the third. He appeared to have strained his nape and spent the rest of the game on the bench in visible pain with ice applied to his injury.
“Everybody stayed in the game, everybody stayed positive, and we were able to turn around the game in the fourth,” said Energy coach Koy Banal. “We brought in Alabi last conference because of his rebounding and shotblocking, and we got Liam now for the same reasons; para ma-balanse kami.”
JC Intal added 24 points and 11 rebounds. He was 4 of 7 from 3-point range, burying back-to-back 3s in the mid-fourth quarter to wipe out an 85-84 NLEX lead.
Powered by McMorrow, the Energy opened a 56-42 advantage at the half.
McMorrow, unstoppable inside on a one-on-one basis and armed with a soft jump hook, had 19 points and 10 rebounds. Ababou, getting the minutes he long craved for, came off the bench with 12 of his 16 points.
Along with former first round pick James Forrester and backup guard Joseph Yeo, Ababou was traded by Barangay Ginebra San Miguel to Barako Bull following the appointment of Frankie Lim as head coach, replacing Ato Agustin.
It was a 22-point deficit earlier, but back-to-back 3s from Mark Borboran and NLEX’s Syrian import Michael Madanly helped bring the Road Warriors within 14 at the intermission. No other teammate came up to double figures, however, with fellow reinforcement Kwame Alexander missing four in a row after hitting his first two shots.
BARAKO BULL 101 – McMorrow 33, Intal 24, Ababou 16, Lastimosa 6, Garcia 5, Lanete 5, Maierhofer 5, Yeo 3, Hubalde 3, Wilson 1, Pascual 0, Chua 0.
NLEX 96 – Madanly 26, Alexander 16, Cardona 11, Villanueva J. 10, Canaleta 9, Villanueva E. 6, Lingganay 5, Taulava 5, Borboran 3, Ramos 3, Raymundo 2, Arboleda H. 0.
Quarters: 29-19, 56-42, 70-70, 101-96.
KIA 83 – N’Diyae 21, Nuyles 18, Chang 14, Dehesa 8, Yee 7, Revilla 6, Thiele 4, Cawaling 3, Deutchman 2, Ighalo 0, Webb 0, Alvarez 0, Buensuceso 0, Pascual 0, Bagatsing 0.
SAN MIGUEL 78 – Cabagnot 18, Reid 17, Lassiter 12, Fajardo 11, Santos 5, Reyes 4, Espinas 4, Lutz 3, Tubid 3, Ross 1, Semerad 0.
Quarters: 17-10, 33-30, 58-51, 83-78