By WAYLON GALVEZ
Games Wednesday (Smart Araneta Coliseum)
4:30 p.m. – Kia vs GlobalPort
7 p.m. – Blackwater vs Phoenix Fuel
BOCAUE, Bulacan – NLEX guard Kevin Alas fired a career-best 25 points to power the Road Warriors to a 93-90 win over the Blackwater Elite last night in the PBA Philippine Cup at the Philippine Arena here.
Alas, who had five turnovers in the final quarter that nearly cost the game for NLEX against Alaska, made 16 points, including four three-point shots in the final period, the last of which gave NLEX an 80-78 lead with 8:57 left.
Before Alas’ explosion, NLEX was trailing Blackwater, 74-65, at the end of the third period.
After retaking the lead, NLEX twice led by as many as five points, the last at 88-83 with 3:14 to go on Alas’ jump shot.
The closest Blackwater got was within three points, 92-89, when Mike Digregorio nailed a triple of his own, 92-89, with 1:07 to play.
Rookie guard Kiefer Ravena split his free throws to make it 93-89, and NLEX tightened its defense in the final moments to claim a crucial victory that extended its win streak to four games.
More importantly, the team of coach Yeng Guiao improved its win-loss record to 6-4 tied ith the Alaska Aces.
It also assured NLEX a spot in the quarterfinals.
“Another hard game for us. Wala kaming panalong madali,” said Guiao. “Our last four wins were just grind out wins and this is no exception. Blackwater is getting better, they are giant killers.”
“According to our calculation, six wins gets us to the quarterfinals. But there are games to be played. Our next game is against TNT KaTropa and we expect another tough game,” added Guiao.
Ravena, the second overall draft pick, also had a solid outing for NLEX with 23 points.
However, the day belonged to Alas who shattered his previous career best of 24 points in a 122-114 double overtime win against Rain or Shine during the Governors’ Cup.
Alas shot 9-of-21 from the field, including 5-of-15 from the three-point territory with eight rebounds and five assists, as well as a single turnover – far from the six he had against Alaska.
Guiao was pleased with the performance of Alas.
“He made fantastic shots… pati ako nagulat,” said Guiao. “I’ve been getting on Kevin’s outside shooting the past games. I did not expect that it will pay dividends this early. Today, he showed us that he’s an outside threat. That’s just incredible shooting. The best I’ve seen him shoot from the outside.”
The setback of Blackwater tied the Elite at 4-6 with the KaTropa and they face a must-win against Phoenix Fuel on Wednesday to have a chance of advancing to the quarterfinal playoffs.
NLEX 93 – Alas 25, Ravena 23, Tiongson 9, Quinahan 8, Al-Hussaini 6, Mallari 5, Baguio 5, Soyud 4, Ighalo 3, Miranda 3, Fonacier 2, Taulava 0, Gotladera 0.
BLACKWATER 90 – Digregorio 16, Jose 14, Erram 14, Maliksi 13, Sena 12, Belo 10, Palma 6, Marcelo 5, Pinto 0.
Quarterscores: 23-20, 41-46, 65-74, 93-90.