NLEX import, Al Thornton sank 50 points and 18 boards in a tremendous performance that helped the Road Warriors complete a fourth quarter surge that culminated in a 96-90 come-from-behind victory over the Barangay Ginebra San Miguel, Wednesday night at the Ynares Center.
Powered by import Michael Dunigan and local behemoth Greg Slaughter, the Gin Kings opened the first half with a 7-0 lead that firmly planted them in the driver’s seat. The two giants continued to lead the charge for Ginebra, and later it was a jumper from LA Tenorio, who pushed Ginebra to the first double-digit lead of the ballgame, 15-5 just past the halfway mark of the period. At the end of the first 12 minutes, they led the misfiring Road Warriors 19-9.
The veteran duo of Macmac Cardona and Asi Taulava took on the scoring reins early in the second quarter. A reinvigorated Al Thornton also provided their much needed spark around halfway through the quarter, exploding for four points that cut the lead to six, 22-28. A trey from Jonas Villanueva cut the lead to three, 25-28. Dunigan and Tenorio responded to the NLEX run by collaborating for seven straight points, extending the lead to eight, 37-31, with three minutes left in the quarter. At the half, Ginebra led 42-35.
The Road Warriors resurrected the previous quarter’s botched run, coming within four, 40-44, just three minutes into the second half. Unfortunately, NLEX could go no further, with Greg Slaughter and Jay-jay Helterbrand sinking a couple of baskets to bring the lead back to seven, 51-44. NLEX, however, showed no sign of buckling, and later came within three, 54-57, after a trey from their import Thornton. The next few minutes of play saw NLEX weather a heated and physical back-and-forth affair to force a 68-all deadlock, care of two free throws from Thornton, with a half a minute left to play. A late putback from Dunigan gave the Gin kings a narrow 70-68 at the end of the quarter.
Back-to-back treys from LA Tenorio and Mac Baracael extended the Ginebra lead to eight just within a minute of the start of the final period, 76-68. The Road Warriors, however, put up the same grit they showed in the previous quarter, and with their import exploding once more, NLEX was soon back within striking distance, 81-82, with less than six minutes left on the clock. Thornton, then, exploded again for six straight points that put the NLEX up by four in a flash, 87-83, with three minutes left to play. Thornton and Jonas Villanueva each put a bucket in the next minute, and entering the final two minutes the Road Warriors led 91-83.
A sneaky layup from Tenorio cut the lead to five in the final minute, but Villanueva answered on the other end for NLEX, extending the lead to 93-86. Ginebra import, Dunigan hit another basket to give the Gin Kings a final lease on life, but Thornton nailed the coffin on the other end with a trey that gave NLEX an eight-point lead and the icing on the cake. At the buzzer, NLEX walked away with the 96-90 win in tow.
Al Thornton, who was a member of the 2008 NBA All-Rookie First Team took home Player of the Game honors for his performance. Both NLEX and Ginebra are at 4-4 in the standings after tonight’s encounter.
Quarters: 9-19, 35-42, 68-70, 96-90
Photo by Nuki Sabio