Rain or Shine came with a working defensive game plan for prolific NLEX import Henry Walker Sunday.
What the Elasto Painters did not see coming were the other Road Warriors, who played big roles in the latter’s come-from-behind 111-99 surprise that fanned their quarterfinals hopes in the PBA Governors Cup at the Mall of Asia Arena.
The likes of rookie Garvo Lanete, Enrico and Jonas Villanueva and Sean Anthony provided invaluable help for Walker, who was stymied for the most part but still led the way for NLEX with 23 points and 12 rebounds.
Lanete came off the bench to equal his season-high with 21 points anchored on 6-for-9 three-point shooting, Anthony scattered 10 of his 12 in the fourth period and Enrico seven of his season-high 14.
Jonas Villanueva finished with 10 assists to go with seven points as the Road Warriors snapped out of a two-game slide.
“This game is really for my players,” said NLEX coach Boyet Fernandez. “They refused to give up. Without their heart, their effort, we would have probably lost this game.”
With their fourth win in nine games the Road Warriors moved into a tie for seventh-running spot with their victim.
More wins against GlobalPort and Alaska in the next two Fridays would assure NLEX’s inclusion in the eight-team quarterfinals.
“We really wanted this, coming off two close losses,” said Fernandez, whose team lost to Meralco by six before dropping a four-point overtime game to Phoenix.
“It’s nice to get this win and give ourselves a chance to fight for another slot in the playoffs,” added Fernandez. “It will be a tough two games for us, but if we’re gonna play the way we did in the second half today we can give ourselves a chance to fight for the playoffs.”
For its failure to follow up its 103-88 win over Mahindra last Friday Rain or Shine is now placed in a must-win situation against defending champion San Miguel Beer on Saturday and Star next Friday.
The Elasto Painters can only knock themselves on the head for this one, first blowing a 48-27 second quarter bulge and then totally unable to match the Road Warriors’pace from the game’s fourth and last deadlock at 81.
The Road Warriors already displayed such sustained surges earlier on, when they cut the deficit to 10 at the half and four at the end of three quarters. That despite Walker, hounded by E-Painters counterpart Jason Forte for the most part, was hitting way below his conference average of 31.6 points.
Paul Lee scored 12 of his 23 points in the fourth period and JR Quinahan seven of his 11, but they were the lone bright spots for Rain or Shine in the stretch that mattered most.
Jericho Cruz added 16, but he went scoreless in the fourth and even committed a foul that netted Lanete three freebies, while 17 of Jeff Chan’s 18 points came in the first three quarters.
Forte, who debuted with 10 points and six rebounds in the Mahindra game, only had seven and six in this one as he went 1-for-8 from the field and missed three of his eight charity attempts.
Forte’s defensive strategy was effective only in the first three periods and he mostly rode the bench in the fourth. By then, Walker’s teammates, especially Lanete, were already hitting their stride.
Not to be totally outdone, Walker took time to drain a long one off a catch-and-shoot to beat the shotclock that heralded NLEX’s final surge from a 96-92 count.
Enrico canned two charities and back-to-back treys by Lanete off the last two of Walker’s six assists followed by an Anthony charity made it a safe 108-97 count, only 53 ticks left.