Down 10 with just a little over two minutes to go in regulation, the NLEX Road Warriors turned it around late, extended it to an overtime and eventually came up with a 102-89 victory over the Blackwater Elites held at the Smart Araneta Coliseum on Friday.
It went back and forth during the opening quarter as no team had a clear edge of pace. No squad led by more than five points in the first 12 minutes of action while there were five lead changes in the period as well. With the game tied at 27 with over 10 minutes to go in the first half, NLEX jumped out to a 7-0 spurt to distance themselves against the Elites. However, jumpers went flying in for the Elites as they closed out the second quarter on a 17-4 run to take the lead at the end of two quarters.
Playing like a team with nothing to lose and wanting to salvage some team pride in their last game of the tournament, Blackwater outscored NLEX 23-19 and won the third period defensively as they limited the touches of Kwame Alexander on the other end. They even built their largest lead at 17 at 62-45 as NLEX kept on missing wide-open attempts.
Looking poised to finish the game early, the Blackwater Elites were still up by a 14-point cushion with about nine minutes to go in the fourth quarter. They would hang on to a double-digit edge for the next seven minutes, as they were able to respond to every blow given by the Road Warriors during the stretch.
Fortunately for the Road Warriors, a sense of urgency started to kick in late with Michael Madanly hitting a three ball to break the lead to single digits. Blackwater committed turnovers in the next two possessions that NLEX masterfully capitalized on as Kwame Alexander scored while Madanly hit yet another trey late. The Road Warriors went on to fortify further their impressive late-game run to two more baskets courtesy of Asi Taulava and Mark Cardona.
Down by a basket with 13 seconds remaining, Bryan Heruela played the passing lanes perfectly as he stole the ball off the inbounds. Good thing for the Elites as Raffy Reyes muffed the potential game-tying layup, Cousin was there to pick up the rebound and got fouled on the putback. He then tied the game with 0.5 seconds left in regulation as KG Canaleta’s heave from beyond halfcourt was way off target.
In overtime, NLEX used the momentum they gathered late in regulation as they jumped out scoring a run anew. Canada’s jumpshot with over four minutes to go was the lone field goal of his squad in overtime. This enabled NLEX to cruise in the game late with their transition game on point while the Elites were left stunned after losing the grip they had in the fourth quarter.
Blackwater Elites are still at the bottom of the standings with a 1-9 record and now losers of eight straight games. On the other hand, NLEX keeps their hopes alive for a quarterfinal berth as they improve to a 3-8 slate.
Despite missing 10 free throws in the game, the Road Warriors were plus 12 from downtown and capitalized on points off turnovers, 23-8. They took care of the ball better as they only had 10 turnovers compared to the Elite’s 19.
Kwame Alexander finished with 26 points, 15 rebounds on an efficient 9-of-13 shooting from the field. Madanly added 18 and was 5-of-10 from three-point territory. Cousin paced the cellar-dealing Elites with 29 markers while also grabbing 14 boards.
As Blackwater rounds up its Governor’s Cup on a disappointing finish, NLEX faces Ginebra for a huge game day as their last assignment to be played on Wednesday, 7pm at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
NLEX(102) – Alexander 26, Madanly 18, Cardona 16, Taulava 10, Villanueva J.9, Wilson 8, Borboran 5, Lingganay 4, Arboleda 3, Ramos 2, Canaleta 1, Raymundo 0, Villanueva E.0
Blackwater(89) – Cousin 29, Canada 11, Reyes 9, Heruela 9, Erram 8, Laure 5, Ballesteros 4, Salvacion 3, Cervantes 3, Gamalinda 2, Acuna 0,
Quarters: 25-25, 38-44, 57-67, 87-87, 102-89