SMART CLARK GIGA CITY – With its playoff hopes squashed by things beyond control, NLEX ended its 2020 PBA Philippine Cup stint strongly through a 127-101 drubbing of Terrafirma, Wednesday at the AUF Sports and Cultural Center.
The Road Warriors were hoping that they could at least vie for the eighth and last quarterfinal ticket but all that got crushed when Rain or Shine defeated an erratic TNT barely 16 hours ago to finally complete the playoff picture.
NLEX would need the Elasto Painters to lose both their back-to-back games against the Tropang Giga and Phoenix and then win over the Dyip to forge a playoff for the no. 8 spot, but then, things didn’t pan out in its favor.
“I felt that if we had just maybe started two weeks ahead, maybe this would be the right time that we would have been playing, with still a few games left. Parang nabitin lang,” said head coach Yeng Guiao.
“Kung meron lang mga dalawa or tatlong games pa, I think we’re still getting better. But ganoon talaga. Nobody really knows how to get by initially, with the intricacies of the bubble, but at least it’s been a learning experience for us.”
That, still, wasn’t an excuse to not play its best against Terrafirma in a battle of also-ran teams, with all but one Road Warrior fielded by Guiao contributing at least five points in the dominant conquest.
Veteran big man Asi Taulava scored eight points in the second quarter, where he helped NLEX turn a one-point deficit to a 55-44 lead at the half that proved to be the prelude to a one-sided show in its favor.
Jericho Cruz, Kiefer Ravena, and multiple Road Warriors continued the onslaught in the third quarter, where they exploded for 42 big points that left the Dyip totally overwhelmed until the final buzzer.
“We have a lot of lessons that we have learned from this bubble. So we’ll take those lessons with us and be able to come out as a better team for next year,” the 61-year-old Guiao said.
Ravena set the pace for NLEX with 23 points, five rebounds, and four assists. Raul Soyud made 16 points, as Cruz supplied 12 points. Anthony Semerad scored 11 markers in the game that might be the last of Taulava.
The 47-year-old has announced earlier this year that the 2020 Philippine Cup will be his last although he refused to confirm in the post-game interview if he had played his final game in the PBA already.
“Everything depends on management. I’m happy just being on the team whatever they ask me to do. Other than that just gotta wait, talk to my management first before I make any final decision,” he said.
CJ Perez had 27 points and 10 rebounds to lead Terrafirma, who ended the season with only one win in 11 games, going 1-10 for the fourth time in the six seasons it has been in the league.
NLEX (127) – Ravena 23, Soyud 16, Cruz 12, Semerad 11, Taulava 11, Paniamogan 9, Ayonayon 9, McAloney 9, Miranda 8, Ighalo 7, Galanza 7, Quinahan 5, Varilla 0.
Terrafirma (101) – Perez 27, Khobuntin 18, Ramos 15, Camson 10, Cahilig 8, Celda 7, Tiongson 6, Batiller 4, Faundo 3, Balagasay 2, Gabayni 1, Agovida 0.
Quarterscores: 23-26-55-44, 97-71, 127-101.