In a game that had no bearing for their opponents, the NLEX Road Warriors ended their elimination round with a victory over Kia Sorento, 88-80, earlier at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Entering the final period with a five point lead, NLEX withstood every Kia attempt at a comeback. Tied at 77-all with a little over two minutes left to play, NLEX mounted an 11-3 run to seal the deal. Niño Canaleta led the Road Warriors with 16 markers via a 6-of-11 shooting clip.
Sorento’s early surge
Playing without playing-coach Manny Pacquiao, Kia started out strong in the opening canto. Sorento top scorer Reil Cervantes had his usual start, scoring the first seven points for his squad.
Holding a slim 11-10 lead, the Sorento guards took over with various three-pointers and and-one opportunities to increase their lead to six midway through the quarter. The Road Warriors then scored five straight points before Kia responded with six unanswered baskets.
NLEX attacked the defense of the Sorento coming into the second quarter, taking the lead at 35-33. However, it was Kia’s turn to show their composure as they managed to hang on and keep their lead at the half, 42-40. JR Buensuceso top-scored for Kia in the first two quarters with 14 markers on 4-of-4 field goal shooting while being a perfect 3-of-3 from the charity stripe.
Road Warriors Head Coach Boyet Fernandez reminded his wards to pick up their game as they want to head straight to the quarterfinals with a victory.
Only down by two, NLEX fired a 7-0 run to open the third quarter. They led by as much as seven, but Kia kept fighting and even grabbed back the lead at one point before NLEX marched on to take a five point advantage. Asi Taulava just kept pounding through Mike Burtscher’s defense as he got a couple of quick turns and three-point play opportunities.
NLEX is through to the playoffs with a 4-7 slate as they await the results of the remaining elimination games to determine the match-ups. Positioned in the lower part of the standings, the Road Warriors will have to win two straight against whoever they will face in the first round. Meanwhile, Kia drops to 1-10, losing its 10th straight match after winning an opening day assignment against fellow expansion team Blackwater Elite.