SMART CLARK GIGA CITY – NLEX wielded the upset ax on early favorite TNT, 109-98, to keep its flickering hopes alive in the 2020 PBA Philippine Cup, Thursday night at the SMART 5G-powered AUF Sports and Cultural Center.
Kevin Alas, Kiefer Ravena, and Jericho Cruz joined forces to help the Road Warriors overcome a sluggish start before conniving once more in the endgame to deal the Tropang Giga their first loss after starting the tilt 5-0.
“This is the proudest I’ve been since we came in the bubble. We did a good job on defense, But I guess TNT has been playing really well in the past three weeks and this was bound to be a bad night for them,” said Coach Yeng Guiao.
Alas was unbothered with the bloodied nose he got following a collision with Jayson Castro late in the first half and finished with 24 points, 11 of which came in the fourth quarter. He also had six rebounds, three steals, and two assists.
Cruz, meanwhile, played like he had an ax to grind against his former team as he fired 19 points, going 5-of-7 from beyond the arc. Ravena flirted with a double-double as he made 16 markers and nine boards.
The trio was responsible for giving the Road Warriors the needed separation in the final chapter. They had a hand in an 8-0 run that turned a slim four-point lead to a 92-82 advantage with 6:25 remaining.
And when the Tropang Giga threatened with 1:35 to go as Ray Parks and Jayson Castro scored back-to-back to trim the gap to five, Ravena struck the dagger trey to make it 104-96 with 50.4 seconds left to play.
Castro returned to action after sitting out their match versus Blackwater last Thursday and proved to be the lone bright spot for the Tropang Giga as he finished with 27 points, eight rebounds, and five assists.
Pogoy made 16 points, six boards, and five feeds. Parks supplied 15 points, as Troy Rosario chimed in 11 markers and 12 caroms for TNT, who actually held a 32-24 lead at the end of the opening quarter.
“We just caught them on their bad night. S’werte kami. It just so happened that we played better defense, or a little better defense, than our previous games. Those two things just combined for today,” Guiao said.
The game had its share of heated moments, starting at the 4:54-mark of the third quarter after Parks got fouled hard by rookie Will McAloney as he tried to make a lay-up, resulting in a bad fall.
McAloney was confronted by Castro afterward before Kiefer Ravena stepped in and pacified the latter. Guiao and TNT veteran Jay Washington, meanwhile, were seen exchanging words at center court.
Cooler heads stepped in, though, and the fiery bench tactician and Washington were slapped with technical fouls each for the verbal altercation. McAloney, on the other hand, was assessed with a flagrant foul penalty one.
Another commotion took place with 20.3 seconds left and with everything all but settled as Parks and JR Quinahan got tangled on the floor following a battle for the ball underneath. The two were then slapped with a flagrant one each.
NLEX now looks to keep going versus Rain or Shine on Monday, Nov. 2, at 4:00 p.m., while the league leaders will aim to rebound quickly against sister team Meralco on Saturday, Oct. 31, at 4:00 p.m.
NLEX (109) – Alas 24, Cruz 19, Ravena 16, Miranda 8, Ayonayon 8, Quinahan 8, Semerad 7, Soyud 6, McAloney 6, Varilla 5, Porter 2, Paniamogan 0, Ighalo 0, Galanza 0, Taulava 0.
TNT (98) – Castro 27, Pogoy 16, Parks 15, Enciso 11, Rosario 11, Erram 9, Reyes 7, De Leon 2, Carey 0, Alejandro 0, Semerad 0, Montalbo 0, Washington 0, Vosotros 0, Flores 0.
Quarterscores: 24-32, 53-48, 75-67, 109-98.