NLEX threw Barangay Ginebra off with a shifting defense and completely took over the game in the payoff period in hammering out a 97-81 stunner in the PBA Philippine Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum Wednesday night.
The Road Warriors fought the Kings in a tight battle through the first three quarters before pressing their bid, seizing control and subsequently taking the huge win to force a three-way tie at fourth place with Ginebra and Rain or Shine at 2-1.
NLEX snapped Ginebra’s two-game winning streak with a blazing finish that saw the Road Warriors smother the Kings, 35-15, in the final canto.
Macmac Cardona top scored with 25 points while Jonas Villanueva, KG Canaleta, Aldrech Ramos and rookie Jeckster Apinan added at least 10 points each as NLEX bounced back from a loss to Talk n Text the last time out and handed coach Boyet Fernandez a first win in his PBA return.
“We had a bad game against Talk n Text and I challenged the players to step up on defense. I do believe they can play ‘D’ on any given night. It proved right tonight,” said Fernandez.
“I’d like to thank my players for buying my game plan to put the pressure on Ginebra’s ball carriers,” Fernandez added. “Ginebra is averaging 22 assists per game and we really had to stop them from running the triangle by playing man-to-man and man-zone before dropping to zone.”
The Road Warriors completely imposed their game in the last quarter, shutting down the Kings and launching their own attack to win by a good margin.
“It’s on the guys and not on me. We’ll not settle for this win. We’ll look forward to winning future games,” said Fernandez, a one-time PBA champion coach with Sta. Lucia Realty.
Aguilar led the way for the Kings while Cardona, Ramos and Borboran joined forces for the Road Warriors as the two teams fought to a 34-all deadlock at the half.
Aguilar had two monstrous jams in a nine-to-nothing run that opened a 24-18 spread for Ginebra midway through second period.
NLEX, however, quickly regrouped and caught up with Ginebra shortly before the halftime buzzer.
The Kings reestablished some momentum in the third period before running smack on NLEX’s stonewall defense in the fourth quarter.
Aguilar, who came through with 17 points in the first three quarters, was held scoreless in the last frame.
From 62-66 count after the third, the Road Warriors worked on a 14-5 attack to surge ahead. (SB)
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