Despite being gone from contention, the NLEX Road Warriors ended their 2019 PBA Commissioner’s Cup campaign on a winning note by escaping Phoenix Pulse Fuel Masters, 87-85, Friday evening at the Cuneta Astrodome, Pasay City.
The Road Warriors lost hold of a 20-point third quarter lead as the Fuel Masters closed within one, 85-86, with 6.2 ticks left to play, but Jericho Cruz’ split from the line plus Matthew Wright’s bad miss from three sealed them the win.
The Road Warriors finished the mid-season joust with a 3-8 win-loss record. This is now the third consecutive time that the MVP Group-owned franchise will not make it into the quarterfinals of the mid-season conference.
“We survived a badly-officiated game. Buti na lang talaga na-survive namin,” said NLEX head coach Yeng Guiao, who got ejected with 42.9 seconds left to play for incurring back-to-back technical fouls for use of profane language.
“It’s just frustrating that ‘yung mga calls, yung mga tawagan — they mean a lot to the teams. But pagdating sa mga referee parang walang kwenta sa mga referee mga tawag,” added Guiao, as both teams got called for a combined 66 fouls.
Olu Ashaolu top-billed for the Road Warriors with 17 points, 17 rebounds, five assists, and two steals. Kenneth Ighalo was the only local to finish in double figures with 14 markers, on top of two rebounds and an assist.
“Anyway, this is just a send-off for us on a winning note. We’ll take the win however it is. We’ll start preparing for the next conference [Governors’ Cup]. We’ll have a short break but after that, we’ll start working on our preparations,” Guiao admitted.
Jazul led the Fuel Masters with 20 points spiked by three triples, along with six rebounds, five assists, and four steals. Matthew Wright supplied 16 points, seven boards, five dimes, and two steals, as Alex Mallari chimed in 13 markers.
Richard Howell, who’s nursing a knee injury which he incurred last Wednesday in Phoenix’s 108-128 blowout loss to San Miguel Beermen, only had 11 points, eight rebounds, three assists, and a steal against five personal fouls.
The Fuel Masters now carry a 4-7 win-loss record, sending their quarters hopes slimmer. They would now need the Alaska Aces (4-6) and the Meralco Bolts (3-6) to lose all their remaining games for a shot at a playoff for the last spot.
NLEX 87 – Ashaolu 17, Ighalo 14, Quinahan 9, Paniamogan 9, Erram 7, Cruz 6, Lao 5, Tiongson 5, Fonacier 5, Taulava 4, Soyud 4, Varilla 2, Baguio 0, Galanza 0.
Phoenix 85 – Jazul 20, Wright 16, Mallari 13, Howell 11, Intal 6, Marcelo 6, Perkins 2, Napoles 0, Wilson 0, Guevarra 0, Gamboa 0.
Quarterscores: 21-11, 45-32, 65-54, 87-85.