Age is only a number, as veteran Asi Taulava and NLEX nip GlobalPort’s young guns, 101-96, for their first win of PBA season.
NLEX started off on fire from the three point line bagging a triple just seconds into the game, followed by another 3 from Jonas Villanueva. A wide open De Ocampo bucket, thanks to a brilliant assist from number 1 pick, Stanley Pringle gave Global Port their first points of the game, but a floater by former Lasallian Mac Cardona, and back-to-back threes from former FEU player Aldrich Ramos gave NLEX a comfortable 2-14 lead over their opponents.
Globalport answered back with 2 more baskets, cutting the lead to single digits, but a fade-away jumper from Cardona brought his team up by 10 once more.
This is when Romeo went on a one-man scoring tear. Romeo, Guarded by Cardona, sank back-to-back baskets to bring the lead down to 6 at 16-10, but Cardona’s hook gave NLEX some breathing room against their opponents, 18-10. Romeo answered back with a big three, followed by a Cabagnot jumper, to trim the deficit to 3, 18-15 Cardona was fouled during a shot attempt on the subsequent possession, bringing him to the line. He was able to bring the lead back to 5, 20-15. Romeo answered back with a fast-break lay-up, thanks to an assist by Pringle.
Cabagnot, having enough of the duel between Cardona and Romeo, went on his own run. He scored on a floater, bagged a wide open 3, a was fouled on two shots, making 3-4 of his free throw attempts. Another 3 capped off his scoring binge, giving him 12 points in the first quarter alone, and putting his team up 27-21 after being down by as many as 12 points.
With time running down at the end of the quarter, Pringle finally made his presence known on his first basket as a PBA player. A cross-over gave him a free lane to the basket, and as he was about to jump for the lay-up, he was cut-off by 2 NLEX defenders. With his opponents’ outstretched arms in the way, Pringle had to bring the ball back down and scoop it up for the lay-in, all while he was in mid-air, increasing his team’s lead 29-25, at the end of the first quarter.
Throughout the second quarter, GlobalPort repeatedly tried to gain a bigger lead over their opponents. A Cabagnot 3, his 22nd point of the game, gave Global Port their first double-digit lead over NLEX, 49-39. NLEX fought back, however, with the help of big man Asi Taulava. Taulava used his bulk advantage over his opponents to get to the free throw line three consecutive times. His 3-6 clip from the charity stripe, along with a Ramos jumper cutting the lead to just 5, 49-44. Pringle and Cardona eventually traded baskets, ending the quarter at 53-47 for Global Port.
NLEX came close to taking the lead in the 3rd quarter, momentarily tying the game at 66 due to back-to-back triples from Raymundo, before one of them was declared a two after further review. Pringle’s 3 brought the lead to 4, but was answered by Canaleta’s last second floater, bringing the score to 69-67.
The game came to a climax at the final quarter, with NLEX opting to play a 2-3 zone defense to stem the bleeding that CPR (Cabagnot, Pringle, Romeo) was inflicting. Down 9 halfway through the quarter at 89-80, NLEX used veteran Taulava to jump-start their offense. Taulava banged bodies in the inside repeatedly, he managed to convert a basket despite getting fouled, converted on two free throws on the next possession, passed to a wide open J. Villanueva for a big 3, and completing an and-one to complete a 10-2 NLEX run.
Romeo attempted to stop the charge of the Taulava-led NLEX with a 3-pointer, but he was answered by a Canaleta 3, an and-one from Taulava, and another huge 3 by Canaleta. With less than 2 minutes to go, NLEX was now up by 5, 92-97. An Isip basket was countered with a Taulava fade and, despite getting fouled and still managing to make his shot, Romeo was unable to convert on the free throw. With less than 24 seconds to go, Global Port was down 3, 96-99. Global Port had a chance to claw back into the ballgame when Romeo stole the ball from Cardona. He passed it off to Cabagnot, who thought of going for the 3 to tie the game, but ended up travelling when he realized he had a clear lane to the basket. Global Port’s fate was sealed with two free throws from NLEX, ending the game, 96-101.
Taulava earned MVP honors for this game, putting up 21 points on an efficient 13 / 17 shooting, 8 rebounds, and 5 assists.