The NLEX Road Warriors’ journey without Kiefer Ravena started smoothly, as they came back and kicked out the Blackwater Elite from the 2018 Commissioner’s Cup playoff picture, 93-89, Wednesday night at SMART Araneta Coliseum.
The Road Warriors have improved to 2-4, while the Elite are now 0-7.
“We were fortunate to be able to set aside the distractions before the game,” said NLEX head coach Yeng Guiao, as the Road Warriors were feeling down after what happened to their teammates. “We felt bad about the situation with Kiefer. Everybody knows that he is an important piece to our team.”
Import Arnett Moultrie led NLEX with 26 points, 16 rebounds, and five assists against seven turnovers. Backcourt duo Alex Mallari and Juami Tiongson each scored 10 points, with the latter adding 10 assists amd five caroms.
The Road Warriors were facing a nine-point deficit, 77-86, with 5:15 left in the game, but they wiped it out and flipped it to a 90-86 lead with 1:25 remaining as they unloaded an overwhelming 13-0 spree capped by a Mallari trey.
Allein Maliksi and Mike DiGregorio, however, provided a glimmer of hope for the Elite after sinking three of their four foul shots, but a Mallari three-point play conversion with 9.7 seconds left to play proved to be the dagger.
“We got the lucky breaks in the end-game,” said Guiao.
DiGregorio led Blackwater with 25 points on 9-of-19 shooting alongside three rebounds and two assists. Maliksi provided 16 markers, while center Poy Erram supplied a double-double of 14 points and 11 rebounds.
Returning import Henry Walker, the replacement for Jarrid Famous, had an underwhelming debut in the mid-season conference as he only finished with 12 points — on 2-of-15 shooting — and 15 rebounds with five steals.
NLEX will next play sister team TNT Katropa on Sunday, June 3, 4:30 PM at the SM Mall of Asia Arena, while Blackwater will battle the Magnolia Hotshots next, next Wednesday, June 6, 4:30 PM, also at the Big Dome.
NLEX 93 – Moultrie 26, Tiongson 10, Mallari 10, Fonacier 9, Rios 8, Monfort 5, Baguio 5, Marcelo 5, Soyud 5, Ighalo 5, Quinahan 3, Miranda 2.
Blackwater 89 – DiGregorio 25, Maliksi 16, Erram 14, Walker 12, Cortez 4, Belo 4, Al-Hussaini 4, Sumang 3, Palma 3, Zamar 2, Jose 2, Pinto 0.
Quarterscores: 26-18, 42-40, 67-71, 93-89.