Kiefer Ravena enjoyed a victorious PBA return as the NLEX Road Warriors defeated the Phoenix Fuel Masters, 123-116, Saturday afternoon at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
Ravena had a well-rounded game, finishing with 20 points, nine rebounds, and seven assists as NLEX picked up its first win of the 2019 PBA Governors' Cup.
The second pick of the 2017 PBA Rookie Draft, Ravena only managed to play a handful of games in last year's Commissioner's Cup before being meted an 18-month suspension by FIBA last May 2018.
The sophomore guard, aided by his stint at the recently-concluded FIBA World Cup, started off the gates rather quickly, drilling four triples in the first quarter alone to end up with 12 markers. Phoenix was able to build a three-point lead at halftime, 55-52, after Justin Chua knocked down a buzzer-beating three.
"It's a grind-out game for us, but we expected something like this. They started out shooting the ball well. We had problems with Matthew Wright and Justin Chua at the start," said Guiao. "With Matthew [Wright] and guards knocking down the outside shots and Eugene [Phelps] providing the inside scoring, Phoenix is a real problem."
Down by as many as seven in various moments of the first three quarters, NLEX was finally able to break through by leaning on a 12-2 run to close the third period and led 94-84, capped off by a heave by Bong Galanza from way out to beat the buzzer.
The Road Warriors were able to lead by as many as 11 in the fourth, but Phoenix was able to slice the gap to three, 113-110, with 2:49 left.
Ravena, who was very enthusiastic in his return according to head coach Yeng Guiao, found the open Paul Varilla for the corner triple to widen the gap, 116-110, 2:36 to go.
Phoenix was not able to come back as import Olu Ashaolu capped off a 29-point, 11-rebound, six-assist night with a tomahawk jam that decided the final score.
The Fuel Masters were led by dynamic scoring import Phelps, who ended up with 38 points, 10 rebounds, and four assists despite racking up four fouls in the first half.
Wright, who was sidelined with an ankle injury during the World Cup break, contributed 24 points in a losing effort.
NLEX (123) -- Ashaolu 29, Ravena 20, Paniamogan 14, Varilla 11, Fonacier 11, Quinahan 10 Cruz 9, Miranda 7, Galanza 6 Ighalo 4, Soyud 2, Erram 0.
Phoenix (116) -- Phelps 38, Wright 24, Chua 15, Mallari 14, Garcia 9, Jazul 7, Intal 4, Potts 0, Marcelo 0, Wilson 0, Kramer 0.
Quarter Scores: 27-29, 52-55, 94-84, 123-116.
- Poy Erram's playing stint ended very early as he injured his left elbow at the 11:17 mark of the second quarter. Opposing forward Dave Marcelo, who was boxing out Erram, was accused by Guiao of having "bad intentions."
- Ravena missed a total of 493 days between his last PBA game and Saturday's contest.
NLEX: Friday, Sept. 27, 4:30 p.m. at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum
Phoenix: Wednesday, Sept. 25, 7 p.m. at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum