The Barako Bull Energy finally put an end to their four game losing streak, withstanding a second half surge from the NLEX Road Warriors and climbing out of a six-point deficit late in the fourth quarter to escape with the 91-85 victory Tuesday afternoon at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Barako Bull opened their campaign with a 6-0 start, thanks to an emphatic burst from import Solomon Alabi. NLEX, on the other hand, saw themselves going to Aldrech Ramos to get their campaign going. The former FEU standout nailed five straight points in a flurry that helped the Road Warriors force a 15-15 deadlock halfway through the quarter. The ensuing trade of salvos saw numerous deadlocks, with Barako Bull sinking the right shots to stay one step ahead. At the end of the first twelve minutes, the Energy led 26-23.
There was no change in the complexion of the game as the second quarter unfolded. The Energy continued to outgun the Road Warriors, leading by as many as seven in the early minutes of the period. Furthermore, five straight points from Jonas Villanueva helped NLEX come within three points, 42-25, late in the quarter, but the run was halted by a Chico Lanete bucket on the other end. Lead by a resurgent Al Thornton, the Road Warriors were able to cut the lead to two at the end of the quarter, 51-49.
The second half was welcomed by big baskets from Solomon Mercado and JC Intal, who collaborated to lead Barako Bull to the first double-digit lead of the game, 62-51, just around the six-minute mark of the quarter. The Energy led by as many as thirteen points in the next few minutes of play, but NLEX import, Thornton, was able to respond to the brewing firestorm, and help the Road Warriors come within a five difference, 64-69, with just three minutes left on the clock. Furthermore, bolstered by big plays from Asi Taulava and KG Canaleta, NLEX were able to force a 70-all deadlock with just a minute left to play. In addition, a floater from Macmac Cardona later gave NLEX its first lead of the ballgame, 72-70. A late triple from Rudy Lingganay gave the Road Warriors the means to finish ahead at the end of the quarter, 75-72.
A heated exchange of baskets broke out at the start of the fourth quarter, with both teams scrambling to hold on to the lead, and the imports duking it out at the rim. With around four minutes left in the quarter, baskets from Cardona and Thornton helped NLEX get some leverage and pull away for an 85-79 lead. It was Carlo Lastimosa, however, that sparked the Energy in cutting the lead to two within the following minute, 83-85.
Chico Lanete ushered in the last two minutes with a trey that gave Barako Bull back the lead, 86-85. He extended the lead to four half a minute later, sinking back the step-back triple to push the lead to 89-85. The Energy needed only to force NLEX’s Thornton to miss on two straight possessions to keep the lead, and with 46.9 seconds left, Paolo Hubalde extended the lead to six with a jumper. A couple more stops later, it was the Energy who walked away with the victory.
Late game hero, Chico Lanete was named Best Player of the Game with 13 points and 2 steals. Solomon Alabi had 29 points, 15 rebounds, and 4 blocks for Barako Bull. Al Thornton led NLEX with 24 points and 9 rebounds. Barako Bull enters the playoffs with a 5-6 record. They started the Commissioners Cup 3-0, but managed to win only one of their next seven assignments. NLEX on the other hand ends the season at 6-5.
Barako Bull 91 – Alabi 29, Lanete 13, Mercado 12, Intal 10, Pascual 10, Garcia 7, Hubalde 6, Lastimosa 2, Marcelo 2, Matias 0, Salvador 0, Salva 0
NLEX 85 – Thornton 24, Cardona 15, Ramos 9, Taulava 9, Canaleta 8, Lingganay 7, J. Villanueva 5, E. Villanueva 4, Borboran 2, Baloria 0, Camson 0, H. Arboleda 0, W. Arboleda 0
Quarters: 26-23, 51-49, 72-75, 91-85