The NLEX Road Warriors’ clean card was put at risk, but the breaks of the game went in their favor as they outlasted a hungry Phoenix Fuel Masters, 95-91, Sunday night at a packed SMART-Araneta Coliseum.
NLEX’s victory, which is now their sixth straight dating back from the Commissioner’s Cup, improves their record to a clean 4-0, while Phoenix dropped to their second straight loss and are now sporting a 2-2 card.
“It’s a really nice to win for us,” said NLEX head coach Yeng Guiao. “We’re starting to look like a team. We’ve been winning games in the end game, been able to hold our own and pull through in the crisis situations.
“That’s a good sign for a team that’s really just trying to put it together,” the reflective mentor said.
Five Road Warriors scored in double figures in the win. Aaron Fuller led the pack with 18 markers on 18 shots alongside 24 rebounds, while Carlo Lastimosa and Alex Mallari each produced 14 points.
Down 10, 68-78, with 8:48 in the final frame, the Road Warriors stepped on the gas, zooming to a Lastimosa-sparked 18-4 spree to seize the upper hand, 84-82, after a Mallari corner jumper with 3:42 remaining.
The Fuel Masters still tried to pull things toward their way. They managed to close within three, 87-90, but Mallari served up the dagger, as his triple from the right wing found the bottom of the net, 93-87, with less than ten ticks left.
“We have four wins but hindi ko pa din alam kung totoo ito or kunya-kunyarian pa lang. So let’s see,” added Guiao. “Our next game is Ginebra, I guess that’s going to be a really good measure of what kind of a team we really are.”
Point guard Kevin Alas supplied 13 markers for NLEX, and JR Quinahan made 10.
Eugene Phelps powered the Fuel Masters with 31 points, 18 rebounds, and six assists. Matthew Wright, who was a non-factor last game versus Globalport with just four points, scored 17, with 13 coming from the first half.
NLEX will face an acid test in the Barangay Ginebra San Miguel on Saturday, August 5, 5:00 PM at Calasiao, Pangasinan. Phoenix, meanwhile, will aim to halt their skid versus the Blackwater Elite on August 11, Friday, 4:15 PM still at the Big Dome.
NLEX 95 – Fuller 18, Mallari 14, Lastimosa 14, Alas 13, Quinahan 10, Fonacier 5, Monfort 4, Soyud 4, Tiongson 4, Taulava 4, Rios 3, Baracael 2, J. Villanueva 0, Al-Hussaini 0, Ighalo 0.
Phoenix 91 – Phelps 31, Wright 17, Baguio 8, Jazul 8, Dehesa 8, Eriobu 7, Kramer 4, Intal 4, Lanete 4, W. Wilson 0, Alolino 0, Borboran 0.
Quarterscores: 14-15, 39-43, 64-69, 95-91.