Jericho Cruz scored on a putback with only a second left to play and NLEX beat Magnolia, 86-85, in the 2019 PBA Governors’ Cup Sunday night at the Ynares Center in Antipolo City.
That shot, which he made after Poy Erram was not able to clean up the missed free throw of Kiefer Ravena with 2.3 ticks to go, completed the Road Warriors’ comeback from 26 down.
Cruz now has two game-winners in this season-ending conference. He made the first one in the Road Warriors’ 113-111 win over Ginebra last October 5 in Dubai, where they erased a 28-point deficit.
Cruz had 13 points, five rebounds, and three assists as he helped NLEX tighten its grip of league leadership with an 8-1 card, which enabled it to clinch a twice-to-beat advantage for the quarters.
“Really a fantastic game actually,” coach Yeng Guiao said. “I’ve been coaching for so long but games like this are really rare. It’s a treat for the fans. Kahit anong side mo, I’m sure nabuhay dugo mo.”
Manny Harris top-scored for the Road Warriors with 22 points along with 10 assists and nine rebounds while veteran big man JR Quiñahan chimed in 14 markers and eight boards.
Things looked bleak for NLEX in the first half when it fell down 21-47 in the second but it didn’t quit. It opened the final period with a 22-5 run to take a 79-76 lead with 2:55 remaining.
The Hotshots, though, managed to take the lead back, 83-80, thanks to Paul Lee’s trey, but Harris answered with a triple of his own to the game up at 83 with 28.9 seconds on the game clock.
Lee again put Magnolia back up, 85-83, following a lay-up off a drive with 11.5 seconds to go but NLEX still got a chance when Cruz forced a jumpball over Romeo Travis with three ticks left.
The breaks have then seemed to go the Road Warriors way since. Mark Barroca was called for a foul on Ravena with 2.3 seconds left and put the Hotshots on penalty, sending Ravena to the line.
Cruz’s end-game magic then came into play afterwards. Magnolia had one last chance to take the game but Lee’s shot from deep missed, and NLEX finally secured the victory.
“The boys did not want to lose. Credit goes to them,” the decorated Guiao lauded of his chargers.
Lee produced 24 points to lead the defending champions, who absorbed its fifth defeat in five assignments.
Ian Sangalang supplied 19 points and 10 rebounds, Travis had a double-double outing as well with 13 points and 10 boards, while Barroca provided 10 markers and eight caroms.
NLEX battles NorthPort (3-6) next on Wednesday, November 13, at the SMART Araneta Coliseum, while Magnolia takes on another MVP team TNT (7-2) on Saturday, November 16, in Davao City.
NLEX 86 – Harris 22, Quinahan 14, Cruz 13, Erram 7, Ravena 7, Galanza 6, Paniamogan 5, Miranda 4, Soyud 4, Ighalo 4, Fonacier 0, Baguio 0,
Magnolia 85 – Lee 24, Sangalang 19, Travis 13, Barroca 10, Banchero 7, Pingris 5, Melton 4, Abundo 3, Reavis 0, Dela Rosa 0.
Quarterscores: 16-39, 29-51, 57-71, 86-85
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