With the game slowly slipping away, the Mahindra Enforcers did two things that put them back in control – ironically with some help from NLEX rookie Simon Enciso.
Switching from zone to man-to-man after Enciso buried three consecutive three-pointers halfway in the fourth quarter, Mahindra checked the slide in time, hanging on for a 106-99 win over the Road Warriors last night and grabbing solo second in the Oppo-PBA Commissioner’s Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Enforcers coach Chito Victolero also sent back their best player other than import Augustus Gilchrist to douse the flames – LA Revilla.
On the bench when NLEX went on a 14-5 run highlighted by three consecutive 3s by Encisio that wiped out an 80-74 deficit and put the Road Warriors ahead, 88-85, Revilla came in with 6:30 remaining after a Mahindra timeout and immediately went to work.
A classic Stockton-to-Malone bounce pass from a pick-and-roll set up Gilchrist for a slam dunk. Revilla then shut out Enciso as the Enforcers answered with an 11-3 run keyed by an Aldrech Ramos corner triple, a Gilchrist jumper that Asi Taulava didn’t bother to chase after, and a spectacular Revilla drive in between two NLEX frontliners.
That made it 98-92, and NLEX spent the last two minutes fouling to gain possession in a strategy thwarted by the Enforcers’ clutch shooting.
The victory was Mahindra’s third in four games, moving the two-year expansion ballclub behind the unbeaten Meralco Bolts. NLEX, meantime, fell to 2-2.
“I think we’re becoming matured enough to know how to close out games,” said Victolero, who has been ably filling in for playing-coach Manny Pacquiao, now preparing for his coming fight with Timothy Bradley. “We worked on how to deal with runs during the off-season and learned to expect them. Now we stay more composed and focused when those runs come.”
Sitting on a zone with a four-point lead, the Enforcers got the shock of their lives when Enciso, a second round draft pick of Rain or Shine before getting traded to NLEX, torched them from three-point range to erase the lead.
But the Enforcers stayed glued, with Revilla keeping them together and Gilchrist, Ramos, and KG Canaleta returning fire. Gilchrist led Mahindra with 30 points and 10 rebounds while Canaleta added 21 with three three-pointers and Chito Jaime, who took on NLEX import Al Thornton, 15 points.
Thornton, hobbled by a heavily-bandaged right knee, had 29 points but was nowhere within the 50-point performer in NLEX’s game against Barangay Ginebra San Miguel.
MAHINDRA 106 – Gilchrist 30, Canaleta 21, Jaime 15, Digregorio 13, Ramos 12, Revilla 10, Dehesa 5, Guinto 0, Hubalde 0, Pinto 0, Yee 0.
NLEX 99 – Thornton 29, Anthony 18, Villanueva J. 15, Taulava 10, Enciso 9, Alas 8, Lanete 5, Borboran 3, Khobuntin 2, Reyes 0, Villanueva E. 0.
Quarters: 27-20; 48-45; 74-70; 106-99.