by Waylon Galvez
Games Wednesday (Smart Araneta Coliseum)
4:15 p.m. – TNT vs Meralco
7 p.m. – SMB vs Rain or Shine
For a team that missed the playoff round in the previous two conferences, NLEX is now a win away from earning a twice-to-beat advantage in the playoff stage of the PBA Governors’ Cup.
Juami Tiongson scored a career-best 21 points while import Aaron Fuller finished with 33 points and 20 rebounds as the Road Warriors claimed their seventh win in nine games with a 109-99 win over the GlobalPort Batang Pier last night at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Tiongson, a back-up point guard who averages nearly seven points per game this conference, did most of the damage in the fourth quarter when he scored 14 points, including four three-point bombs.
NLEX was up by nine points, 91-82, when GlobalPort import Murphey Holloway scattered five straight points – a jumper and a triple – that trimmed the deficit to 91-87 with 7:21 left.
However, the 5-foot-10 Tiongson – a free agent pick up prior to the second conference – nailed his fifth trey in the game, and after a GlobalPort turnover, Fuller converted a layup to put the Road Warriors ahead, 96-87, with 6:33 to play.
The last time Batang Pier threatened was when Terrence Romeo made a triple and Holloway had a layup to make it 102-95, but JR Quiñahan – off an assist by Tiongson down low – completed a three-point play for a 105-95 lead with 2:05 remaining in the game.
The win improved NLEX’s record to 7-2 to keep its grip at fourth spot in the standings. In the calculation of Road Warriors coach Yeng Guiao, however, the “magic number” for them is eight wins.
They have two chances to get to that, versus TNT KaTropa on Sept. 13 and opposite Star on Sept. 24.
“Seven (wins) is a good place to be, but we need eight (wins) to make the top four,” said Guiao, who also got 18 points from Quinahan, 12 markers from Kevin Alas and 10 points from Cyrus Baguio.
The top four finishers after the single elimination round will carry twice-to-beat advantage against the fifth to eight qualifiers in the quarterfinal round. The bottom four in the standings will be eliminated automatically.
Guiao said he also likes where they are now considering the 10-day break before they face TNT.
By that time, he said that they would have a better outlook of the playoff race, something they accomplished last week when they claimed a spot with a win against ‘Grand Slam’ seeking San Miguel Beer (103-100) last week after missing the round during the Philippine Cup and Commissioner’s Cup.
“Manonood muna kami ng bakbakan ng iba,” said Guiao. “By the time we play our next game, we have a good idea kung sino yung sa standings na top four candidates, then kami naman ang makikipag-bakbakan.”
GlobalPort missed the services of Stanley Pringle, who left for the United States Friday evening, or after scoring 30 points in a 119-112 win against TNT, to be with his ailing father. Holloway led the team with 29 points, while Romeo added 24 points off the bench.
The setback dropped Batang Pier to 3-4.
NLEX 109 – Fuller 33, Tiongson 21, Quiñahan 18, Alas 12, Baguio 10, Mallari 8, Fonacier 4, Ighalo 3, Al-Hussaini 0, Lastimosa 0, J. Villanueva 0, Soyud 0, Taulava 0.
GLOBALPORT 99 – Holloway 29, Romeo 24, Anthony 15, Cortez 9, Araña 9, Guinto 6, Cardona 4, Baracael 3, Mamaril 0, Hubalde 0, Celiz 0.
Quarters: 33-22, 56-54, 78-76, 109-99.