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NLEX completes turnaround for first win of season over Blackwater



In a game of countering runs, the NLEX Road Warriors opened their season with a win after trailing by 11 early in the first half and defeating the Blackwater Elites 90-86 in the first game of Friday’s double-header at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Blackwater started fuming from three-point territory in the first period of play, as the Elites made their early distance against the Road Warriors. Despite NLEX making an 8-0 run to counter a 9-1 opening by Blackwater, the Road Warriors shot six triples during the first quarter that spelled the difference in the lead. They also limited the Road Warriors to only six points in the last five minutes, while Reil Cervantes shot two treys during that stretch.

Until the eight minute mark of the second, Blackwater played its impressive start to the game as they cap a 7-2 start cemented by a Lester Canada triple. Notwithstanding ten missed free throws during the second quarter, the Road Warriors made its run after trailing by double digits with Asi Taulava and Kevin Alas scoring big in the latter stretch of the first half. NLEX outscored Blackwater 9-4 in the last four minutes of the second quarter, as the Elites also struggled with their turnovers.

Carrying the momentum they got in the second period, NLEX turned it around in the third period, as they erased the lead and built their own. The rally started with a Mark Borboran triple that was followed by a 9-2 blast by the Road Warriors. Taulava and the rest of the frontline scored successive interior baskets for their team, while the Elites cooled down with their perimeter sniping. However, in the last 3:45 of the third, Blackwater responded once again with a 9-2 closeout behind key jumpers from James Sena, but NLEX took a one point lead entering the fourth.

Raphy Reyes initiated the running attack to jumpstart the fourth period as his team romped up a 10-4 run, with the guard making three straight layups. NLEX then responded with back-to-back hits from Simon Enciso and Mark Borboran, who drained big threes, while Sean Anthony’s inside production lifted the Road Warriors late in an 17-9 counter. In the last two minutes, Blackwater inked in six unanswered points to trim the lead down to one, but Taulava and Anthony’s free throws, down the stretch, sealed the deal.

After the game, Coach Boyet Fernandez opened up about the retooling that he did for the Road Warriors that paid instant dividends in his team’s first win. With regards to his rookie Simon Enciso, who tallied 15 points on a hot 5/8 shooting from three-point territory, he says. “(In the draft) we didn’t have a second round pick, so we actually begged Rain or Shine for it. It was a good acquisition for us, I’m happy RoS gave it to us.”

He added, “he’s capable of playing in the PBA and now Jonas(Villanueva) can play his natural position”. Despite the win, he opened up about the team’s cohesiveness that may be improved throughout the rest of the season. “There are times that we don’t play as a team, but it’s a first time that Asi practiced and Sean just came. Hopefully we improve every game.”

Aside from Enciso’s scoring, three other NLEX players tallied double-digit scoring with Taulava’s 19 leading the way. Anthony almost had a triple double with 14 points, 12 rebounds and seven dimes. For NLEX, it was their bench players who did the damage offensivel,y as they got 60 from their non-starters led by Keith Agovida’s 15.

NLEX will next face the Barako Bull Energy Cola on Wednesday, 4:15pm at the Smart Araneta Coliseum, while Blackwater will have the Alaska Aces as their next assignment, 4:15pm on Nov. 30 at the Mall of Asia Arena.

The Scores:
NLEX (90) – Taulava 19, Enciso 15, Anthony 14, Villanueva J, 8, Cardona 5, Reyes 5, Apinan 4, Alas 4, Khobuntin 4, Arboleda 0.
Blackwater (86) – Agovida 15, Reyes 13, Cervantes 12, Ballesteros 10, Lastimosa 7, Gamalinda 6, Sena 6, Melano 5, Cortez 5, Canada 3, Golla 2, Erram 2, Vosotros 0, Bulawan 0.
Quarterscores: 17-26, 41-42, 60-59, 90-86.

*Photos by PBA Images