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NLEX plasters Barako Bull

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Games Tomorrow
(MOA Arena)
4:15 p.m. – Alaska vs Blackwater
7 p.m. – Globalport vs Star
Move over, Philip Cezar.

Sean Anthony had the career-best performance for NLEX last night, but it was Asi Taulava who came away with the bigger prize, passing the PBA great as the league’s fifth best all-time rebounder.

Anthony grabbed a personal high 19 rebounds to go with 11 points as the Road Warriors turned back debuting Barako Bull, 93-85, for another hard-earned win and a share of leadership in the Smart Bro-PBA Philippine Cup at the Araneta Coliseum.

NLEX, which edged Blackwater, 90-86, last Friday, tied idle Rain or Shine with 2-0 slates.

Barako Bull, with nine new players following an aggressive off-season revamp, got 16 points each from JC Intal and William Wilson (17 rebounds) but couldn’t sustain a strong first half which saw NLEX trail, 25-12, late in the first quarter.

Intal had 9 points in the fourth quarter but Wilson sputtered to 3 and NLEX built a 76-65 lead behind the 8 third quarter points of Eric Camson and Taulava’s 5.

Taulava, the league’s eldest at 42, battled fellow statesman Mick Pennisi on equal terms in the first half, with Pennisi emerging with 8 points and 5 rebounds and Taulava with 7 and 8 as Barako Bull took a 45-48 advantage.

But while Pennisi stalled, Taulava continued to heat up, especially under the boards where his 11 caroms allowed him to move up the all-time rebounds ladder with 5,839 behind No. 1 Ramon Fernandez, No. 2 Abet Guidaben, No. 3 Jerry Codiñera and No. 4 Alvin Patrimonio.

Taulava quickly downplayed the accomplishment, however.

“It’s nice,” he said. “But right now the only thing important to me is NLEX and getting our team to playoffs. I’ll think about those records later when I’m retired.”

The Road Warriors’ inability to execute their defensive game plan in the first half contributed to their “flat start,” said Taulava.

“We were just freelancing and not getting to where we’re supposed to go defensively,” he said.

Anthony, who had 14 points, 12 rebounds and 7 assists against Blackwater, provided the pivotal play with three minutes remaining and NLEX ahead, 81-78, hustling to save the ball from going out of bounds after Kevin Alas missed from point-blank.

With the Barako Bull players apparently waiting for the whistle, Anthony stretched out to retrieve the loose ball, flicking it back to Alas under the basket for a layup and an and-one free throw.

“It seems we wanted to finish the game right away,” said NLEX coach Boyet Fernandez. “At halftime I told them we have to make one stop at a time.”

NLEX 93 – Taulava 14, Cardona 12, Alas 11, Anthony 11, Villanueva E. 10, Borboran 8, Camson 8, Villanueva J. 8, Khobuntin 7, Enciso 4, Apinan 0, Arboleda 0, Lanete 0, Reyes 0.

BARAKO 85 – Intal 16, Wilson 16, Pennisi 11, Garcia 10, Cruz 7, Miranda 7, Urbiztondo 7, Baracael 4, Monfort 3, Lanete 2, Sorongon 2, Forrester 0, Fortuna 0.

Quarters: 18-25, 38-45, 73-63, 93-85