In a tight, defensive battle that went down the wire, the NLEX Road Warriors escaped with an 87-83 win over the Meralco Bolts in the 2019 PBA Philippine Cup at the Ynares Center in Antipolo City.
Fittingly, it was a defensive play in the dying seconds that spelled the difference as NLEX big men JR Quiñahan and JP Erram teamed up to foil a potential tying basket by Ranidel De Ocampo down low.
The game was close all the way, with 20 lead changes and 15 ties and neither team leading by more than seven points. In the end, it was NLEX that nailed its second straight win after opening the conference with three straight losses to move into a tie with their victims, the San Miguel Beermen and the TNT KaTropa in the middle of the pack.
"I just want to win," Erram said after he was named one of the two Best Players of the Game. "It boils down to that. I just want to show that I belong to this team. Another loss would have sunk us further."
Quiñahan led the Road Warriors with 16 points, while Bong Galanza added 14. Erram and Kevin Alas added 12 apiece.
Galanza hit two free throws with 1:41 left to give the Road Warriors an 83-80 lead, but De Ocampo buried a triple with 1:34 left to tie it up. After Marion Magat and Reynel Hugnatan exchanged misses, Quiñahan hit one of two from the line with 31 ticks to go to nudge NLEX ahead, 84-83.
After a Meralco timeout, De Ocampo missed a jumper, and was forced to foul Magat to stop the clock. The lanky center split his free throws to give the Road Warriors an 85-83 lead and the Bolts one last chance to tie or win with just 11 seconds left.
Chris Newsome found De Ocampo under the basket, but Quiñahan and Erram conspired to smother the attempt. Galanza buried two more free throws on the other end with 4.6 left to seal the win for the Road Warriors.
Jared Dillinger and Newsome had 16 and 15, respectively, for the Bolts.
NLEX 87 - Quinahan 16, Galanza 14, Erram 12, Alas 12, Rios 9, Magat 8, Porter 6, Fonacier 4, Ighalo 2, Paniamogan 2, Tallo 2, Soyud 0.
Meralco 83 - Dillinger 16, Newsome 15, Hugnatan 14, De Ocampo 8, Caram 8, Amer 7, Hodge 6, Canaleta 3, Faundo 2, Salva 2, Jackson 2, Pinto 0, Tolomia 0.
Quarters: 21-22, 34-37, 61-64, 87-83.
- Erram had five of NLEX's seven blocks.
- A brownout hit the venue with 2:57 left and NLEX up 81-78 and halted play for over 15 minutes.
- In his first game at the very same venue where he tore his ACL almost 11 months ago, Alas suffered another knee injury with 3:19 left in the game when he crashed to the floor after getting fouled by Cliff Hodge on a rebound and immediately clutched his right knee. He got up and hit two free throws but did not return to the game. An MRI has been scheduled on Sunday.
NLEX - Mar. 1 vs. Blackwater at the Mall of Asia Arena
Meralco - Mar. 2 vs. Magnolia Hotshots at TBA