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Walker’s 44 lifts NLEX in wire-to-wire victory over Blackwater


The NLEX Road Warriors opened their Governor’s Cup campaign on the front foot, as they pulled off a 96-90 win over the Blackwater Elite behind a dominating 44-point outburst from Henry Walker, Saturday afternoon at the SM Mall of Asia Arena.

“Just be aggressive. I remember the last time I’m here, I’m not that aggressive,” Walker said about his outstanding conference debut. “I just want to be aggressive and keep my teammates involved. We’ll do great things this season.”

The Road Warriors’ opening surge dictated the pace of the game, as they relied on 24 big points from import Henry Walker in the first quarter alone. Five triples from Walker stretched the NLEX lead to a whopping 17-point gap in the opening frame, as they pounded the stunned Blackwater crew early on.

Former Meralco import Eric Dawson tried to carry his new Blackwater squad in the all-import showcase during the first half. However, they still trailed by a hefty 14-point separation at the half despite 15 scattered points from the Elites reinforcement.

The Elites tried to establish a run by attacking the rim. As the locals from both sides got it going offensively, NLEX thwarted mini-runs by Blackwater to keep them afloat. By the last part of the third, NLEX had reinstalled their 17-point cushion at 78-61, but Blackwater chopped it down seven points entering the final frame.

The Elites continued to push, and they were finally able to break the double-digit barrier in the fourth frame. However, Walker woke up from an inefficient performance in the two middle quarters as he took over in the final quarter. He hit the 40-point mark with 4:05 left on a driving layup that also built a 12-point cushion, good enough to stave off Blackwater for good.

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Walker’s 44 included 6/13 shooting from downtown.

After the game, he opened up about taking what the defense was giving. “Well I can post up, shoot it, run the pick-and-roll,” he said. “In the first half, they (Blackwater) don’t want me to post, so I took the three.”

Blackwater had more points in the paint, 54-32, but lost to the Road Warriors’ sizzling perimeter sniping. NLEX shot 14/35 (40%) from beyond-the-arc, scoring a plus-36 against Blackwater.

Dawson paced the Elites with 27 points, 17 rebounds, and four blocks, but shot a poor 5/12 clip from the free throw area. Carlo Lastimosa chipped in 16.

The NLEX Road Warriors (1-0) look to continue this winning start as they face San Miguel, while Blackwater (0-1) attempt to nab their first win against Star Hotshots (0-1). Both games will be played at 4:15pm and 7:00pm respectively on Friday, July 22 at the Big Dome.

The Scores:

NLEX (96) – Walker 44, Baracael 12, Alas 12, Villanueva J. 11, Taulava 5, Soyud 4, Lanete 3, Forrester 3, Villanueva E. 2, Khobuntin 0, Monfort 0, Akl 0, Arboleda 0, Reyes 0.

Blackwater (90) – Dawson 27, Lastimosa 16, Cortez 14, Sumang 8, Sena 8, Pascual 5, Canada 5, Gamalinda 4, Erram 1, Cervantes 0.

Quarterscores: 31-16, 53-39, 78-68, 96-90.

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