Playing their second game in three days, the NLEX Road Warriors avoided a colossal fourth quarter collapse, hanging on to beat the Alaska Aces, 96-89, and end their six-game winning run, Sunday at the SMART Araneta Coliseum.
The Road Warriors, still fresh from their 87-85 victory over the Meralco Boltsl last Friday, have now won their third straight outing and have improved to 5-4. The Aces, on the other hand, dropped to 6-3, tied with the Magnolia Hotshots.
“I was wrong again. [I thought] we really need a 30-point lead to beat Alaska. But even with a 30-point lead, we were not safe,” rued coach Yeng Guiao. “There’s a reason they got six straight wins, and maybe they were just due for a loss.”
The troika of Kevin Alas, Larry Fonacier, and surprisingly Raul Soyud spearheaded NLEX with 15 points apiece. JR Quiñahan made 12 markers, while Kiefer Ravena finished with 12 points and 10 assists.
NLEX led by as much as 30 in the third, and entered the final frame up 25, 79-54. However, the Aces have always had a knack for rallying back, scoring 19 unanswered points to cut the lead to 11, 76-87, with 4:25 on the clock.
JR Quiñahan ended the bleeding for the Road Warriors, but Alaska made yet another wave through a 13-2 run — ended by Carl Cruz’s lay-up off a steal — to knock within a field goal, 89-91, with just 13.9 seconds left to play.
Unfortunately, that was the Aces’ last hurrah. They had a chance to tie after Alas split his freebies on the other end, but Kevin Racal’s inbound pass to Cruz for a potential game-tying trey was too strong and went out of bounds.
Free throws by Ravena and Fonacier proved to be the nail in the coffin to finish off Alaska.
“I think this win is good for us in terms of learning a lot of lessons,” added Guiao. “The two games we won before this were really hard games and I think they helped us in terms of just keeping our composure in the end game.
“We are actually very tired because we played three games in the last eight days. So the way Alaska Aces, they’re going to run you to the ground. I was really surprised in the first 3 quarters, we were able to keep up our energy,” he furthered.
Vic Manuel, Jvee Casio, and rookie Jeron Teng all scored 12 points each to lead the Milkmen. Cruz and Calvin Abueva scored 10 markers apiece, combining for 14 of Alaska’s 50 rebounds.
NLEX will next battle the Blackwater Elite next Sunday, February 18, 4:30 PM at the Philippine Arena. Alaska, meanwhile, will have a tall order versus the San Miguel Beermen on Saturday, February 17, 5:00 PM in Batangas.
NLEX 96 — Alas 15, Fonacier 15, Soyud 15, Quiñahan 12, Ravena 12, Miranda 8, Tiongson 8, Mallari 4, Baguio 3, Al-Hussaini 2, Gotladera 2, Taulava 0.
Alaska 89 — Casio 12, Manuel 12, Teng 12, Abueva 10, Cruz 10, Enciso 10, Exciminiano 7, Banchero 4, Racal 4, Thoss 4, Potts 3, J. Pascual 1, Baclao 0.
Quarterscores: 29-18, 52-32, 79-54, 96-89.