NLEX's personnel problems had a lot to do with their difficulties in closing out games in past conferences. The Road Warriors on Friday were able to show how steady it could do with a full lineup as timely baskets in the final minute gave NLEX a 105-99 win over Meralco in the Governors' Cup. JR Quiñahan led NLEX with 19 points on five threes but the Road Warriors relied on other crucial pieces late in order to improve to 2-0.
NLEX led 96-77 thanks to a Quiñahan triple with 7:27 to go in the fourth quarter before the Bolts went on a 19-4 run to trim the lead to 100-96. Jericho Cruz responded by scoring an easy basket underneath and Kiefer Ravena got a crucial goaltending call to go his way with 35 seconds to go to put the game away for NLEX.
Ravena flirted with a double-double after putting up 15 points, eight rebounds and eight assists, while Cruz finished with 10 markers.
"As I've said, the big difference is that we have some pieces now. Back then, we didn't have pieces. We had a lot of games we lost in the endgame because we really did not have solid point guards. We were not able to finish strong in the endgame. We had a lot of close games but we lost the fourth quarter," coach Yeng Guiao said. "It's really easier to finish games if you got some pieces."
"Kiefer is making a big difference. At the same time Jericho, the rest of the guys, Larry (Fonacier), Iggy (Kenneth Ighalo), then Bong Galanza, Mike Miranda, they're making their contributions not necessarily on offense but overall, making contributions in different departments," he added.
Meralco saw Allen Durham's 32 points and 19 boards go to waste in the loss as it slid to 1-1. Raymond Almazan finished with 17 points and 17 rebounds, but outside of the frontline duo and Baser Amer (15 points), the Bolts were not able to draw much firepower elsewhere.
"Of course, their import did most of the offensive scoring for the other team but that was really a given. Our objective was if he was going to score, we should limit Newsome, we should limit Baser, all the rest of the other guys and fortunately we were able to do that," said Guiao.
NLEX (105) - Quiñahan 17, Ashaolu 17, Ravena 15, Ighalo 15, Fonacier 11, Cruz 10, Galanza 9, Paniamogan 5, Miranda 2, Baguio 2, Rios 0, Lao 0, Soyud 0, Paredes 0.
Meralco (99) - Durham 32, Almazan 17, Amer 15, Caram 8, Newsome 7, Salva 6, Quinto 5, Hugnatan 5, Faundo 2, Pinto 2, Jackson 0, Tolomia 0, De Ocampo 0.
Quarters: 28-25, 55-46, 83-68, 105-99.
This is the first time since the Philippine Cup that the Road Warriors strung together two straight wins. "Really feels good. We're having a good start this conference. I hope we can sustain it," Guiao said.
NLEX shot above 47 percent from downtown again as it nailed 15-for-31 threes. In their first game, the Road Warriors drained 20-for-42 from distance.
NLEX: vs. Blackwater on September 29 at the Sta. Rosa Multi-Purpose Complex in Laguna
Meralco: vs. Alaska on October 4 at the Mall of Asia Arena