Larry Fonacier’s end-game heroics on both ends of the floor were NLEX Road Warriors’ saving grace, as they out-dueled San Miguel Beermen in a shootout, 103-100, to return to the win column, Sunday night at the SMART Araneta Coliseum.
“Parang mahirap pa makapaniwala na natalo namin yung San Miguel in a tight game,” said a relieved NLEX head coach Yeng Guiao. “We are developing some maturity and composure in the end game. It’s a good sign for us.”
The win improves the Road Warriors’ record to 6-2, and they are now assured of a slot in the 2017 Governor’s Cup quarterfinals. Meanwhile, the Beermen, who have played their second game in three days, dropped to 3-2.
“The more important thing is we got our sixth win which in our calculation makes us clinch the quarterfinals,” Guiao said. “(Now) We can look forward to getting into the top four and getting the twice-to-beat advantage.”
“Feeling namin may karapatan na kaming mangarap mag top four.”
Aaron Fuller was the Road Warriors’ top performer with 26 points and 22 rebounds, but the night belonged to Fonacier as he fired 16 markers — six coming from the back-to-back triples he made down the stretch.
“Larry is also vintage, from eight years ago,” lauded Guiao of his veteran forward. “He’s playing well for us, not only the leadership but also the scoring.”
As the Beermen were able to send the game to a 95-all knot — after Arwind Santos’ lay-up in transition — with 2:09 left to play, Fonacier nailed a booming triple to lift the Road Warriors ahead, 98-95, with 1:46 remaining.
Wendell McKines made a tough lay-up to inch SMB closer with 49 ticks to go, but Fonacier widened NLEX’s lead once more via another triple — this time from the top of the key — to make it 101-97 with less than 24 seconds left.
The Beermen threatened once more moments later, 103-100, after Alex Cabagnot’s triple. SMB went to Cabagnot again for the game-tying bucket, but Fonacier played stifling defense on him and prevented any shot.
JR Quiñahan also played stellar for NLEX with 17 points and 10 rebounds. Alex Mallari was also effective as he scored 10 and hauled down seven boards.
San Miguel’s loss puts in naught the balanced attack they deployed. McKines top-billed for the Beermen with 28 points and 14 caroms, while Santos, Cabagnot, and Marcio Lassiter scored 19 markers apiece.
NLEX will take on the Globalport Batang Pier next Sunday, September 3, 4:30 PM, still at the Big Dome, while San Miguel will look to bounce back versus the Alaska Aces on September 2, Saturday, 5:00 PM in Angeles, Pampanga.
NLEX 103 – Fuller 26, Quiñahan 17, Fonacier 16, Mallari 10, Tiongson 8, Alas 7, Soyud 7, Baguio 5, J. Villanueva 3, Lastimosa 2, Al-Hussaini 2, Taulava 0.
San Miguel 100 – McKines 28, Lassiter 19, Santos 19, Cabagnot 19, Fajardo 6, Ross 4, Ganuelas-Rosser 2, Espinas 2, Heruela 1, Tubid 0.
Quarterscores: 25-24, 48-39, 68-70, 103-100.
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