By JONAS TERRADO
KJ McDaniels made sure he would go out in style as NLEX secured a twice-to-beat advantage in the quarterfinals with a 115-103 win over Barangay Ginebra San Miguel in the PBA Governors’ Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
McDaniels, who will leave the team to await the birth of his child, tallied 26 points, 10 rebounds, two steals and three blocks as the Road Warriors finished the eliminations at 8-3, enough to seal a top four finish and the quarterfinal bonus.
The former NBA player had plenty of help from Kevin Alas, Kris Rosales and new addition Justin Chua, who were also keys in NLEX battling back from double-digit deficits in the first half to claim the all-important win.
NLEX now hopes to continue its form in the quarterfinals with McDaniels replacement Cameron Clark, who watched from the stands after arriving earlier in the day.
“He’s really been settling down and then now he needs to go,” said NLEX coach Yeng Guiao, who praised McDaniels for his desire to end his stint on a bright note.
“Laking panghihinayang namin, but we have to move on after KJ and hope that we’re still able to play well. Ganun talaga ang buhay. We just have to roll with the punches, we just have to make the adjustment.”
Alas had 18 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists, Rosales stepped up with 17 points behind five triples and Chua scored 15 points in his first game since being traded from Phoenix Super LPG.
The loss ended Ginebra’s hopes of a twice-to-beat advantage, falling to a tie for seventh place with Phoenix at 5-5 with Rain or Shine as its last elims opponent on Sunday.
Justin Brownlee fired 36 points with 10 rebounds and 11 assists, but it looked like he was left by his lonesome to try and spark a Gin Kings rally that fell short.
The Road Warriors looked lost early as the Gin Kings led 33-18 near the end of the first quarter, but slowly cut the gap to five at the half.
Not even Scottie Thompson’s buzzer-beating triple that gave Ginebra a 58-53 lead during the break deterred NLEX as McDaniels and company stepped up to controll the second half .
NLEX 115 — McDaniels 26, Alas 18, Rosales 17, Chua 15, Trollano 14, Quiñahan 10, Nieto 5, Murrell 4, Paniamogan 3, Ighalo 3, Soyud 0.
GINEBRA 103 — Brownlee 36, Standhardinger 16, J. Aguilar 15, Thompson 14, Tenorio 9, Chan 7, Onwubere 2, Tolentino 2, Pinto 2, Aguilar 0.