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NLEX shrugs off slow start; whips Kia in fourth quarter turnaround

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After trailing for most of the three first quarters of the ballgame, the NLEX Road Warriors embarked on a successful turnaround in the fourth, to upend the Kia Carnival and take home a 102-86 victory on Wednesday afternoon at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

The sweet-shooting Carnival took control early in the first quarter, holding on to the steady lead. Late in the quarter they were able to pull away for a 17-11 edge, but the Road Warriors responded with a 5-0 run kicked off by a trey from KG Canaleta. Kia however rallied to slow down the brewing NLEX flurry, scoring five straight points and held the Road Warriors scoreless for almost two minutes to take a 22-16 lead at the end of the quarter.

Kia only continued to outgun NLEX in the early minutes of the second to hold on to their lead despite big baskets from import Al Thornton and veteran Macmac Cardona. The Road Warriors came as close as three points more than once in the early second quarter, but were unable to stop the Carnival’s flow and were repeatedly denied the chance to take the lead. A seven-point flurry care of baskets from Karl Dehesa, Mark Yee, and import PJ Ramos, gave Kia the first double-digit lead of the game, 38-27, with five minutes left in the quarter. Veteran behemoth Asi Taulava and frontcourt partner Thornton exploded for six points that brought NLEX within five, 33-38. Their run was cut short when JR Cawaling responded on the other end with a pull-up triple to extend the lead back to eight. At the end of the first half, the Carnival led 45-36.

Free throws from LA Revilla gave Kia another double-digit lead, 49-38, in the opening minute of the second half. Later, a 7-0 flurry that featured five points from Jonas Villanueva gave the NLEX the spark they needed to come within four, 45-49, nine minutes left on the clock. A basket from Kia import PJ Ramos ended the run and extended the lead to six. Unsullied after another botched rally, NLEX import Thornton exploded for five unanswered points to put NLEX within striking distance, 51-53. His Kia counterpart however responded with baskets on the other end to protect the Kia lead. The Road Warriors later returned to striking distance with three minutes left in the quarter, care of a free throw from Thornton. Two free throws from Villanueva forced the first deadlock of the game since the first quarter, 68-68, with just a minute and a half left on the clock. Kia was able to pull together and withstand NLEX’s last minute surge to take a 72-69 lead at the end of the quarter.

NLEX finally found themselves in the position they had been working towards come the fourth quarter. A 9-0 run out together by Thornton and Cardona launched NLEX to a sudden 78-72 lead three minutes into the period. It was Kia’s turn to bite at the Road Warrior’s heels, who sank enough shots to hold on to momentum. The Carnival also suffered another blow when import PJ Ramos had to be taken out of the game after hurting his leg while going for a block around the halfway mark of the quarter. With three minutes left the play, baskets from import Thornton, whose presence now dominated the inside, gave NLEX their first ten-point lead of the game, 89-79.

After receiving some treatment, Ramos was able to return to the court approaching the final two minutes of the game. However, his return came too late as the Road Warriors then had the thirteen point lead, 95-82. With time on their side, the Road Warriors needed only to make a few more baskets and put up a couple of stops to ice the win.

Jonas Villanueva was named Best Player of the Game with 20 points, 5 assists, and 4 steals. Al Thornton had 33 points and 12 rebounds. Kia’s PJ Ramos had 41 points and 23 rebounds in the loss, and was the only Kia player to score in double digits. NLEX are now at 6-4 after winning their fifth straight game. Kia meanwhile is at a precarious 4-6.

The Scores

NLEX – Thornton 33, J. Villanueva 20, Cardona 16, Lingganay 12, Taulava 10, E. Villanueva 4, Borboran 4, Canaleta 3

Kia- Ramos 41, Cervantes 8, Buencuseso 7, Cawaling 6, Revilla 6, Avenido 6, Dehesa 5, Poligrates 3, Thiele 2, Yee 2

Quarters: 16-22, 36-45, 69-72, 102-86

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