ANTIPOLO - Jericho Cruz made a game-winning putback off a missed free throw from Kiefer Ravena as the NLEX Road Warriors essayed a come-from-behind 86-85 win over Magnolia on Sunday in the 2019 PBA Governors' Cup Sunday.
The Road Warriors were down by two with 2.3 ticks remaining when Ravena was sent to the foul line. He made the first free throw, but muffed the second. Fortunately for NLEX, Cruz was at the right place at the right time.
With the win, the Road Warriors got the twice-to-beat incentive in the quarterfinals with an 8-1 win-loss record.
Magnolia had a chance snatch the game, but Lee was forced to take a shot from way beyond the arc with a second remaining, but it fell short.
"It was really a fantastic game actually. I've been coaching for so long but games like this are really rare. And its a treat for the fans. No matter whose side you're on, I'm sure you felt excited about the game," said NLEX head coach Yeng Guiao after the game.
NLEX import Manny Harris was actually struggling for most of the game. But he saved his best for last, dropping 12 of his 22 points in the fourth period, where he also unleashed a three-pointer that tied the game at 83-all before Ravena and Cruz did their magic.
Harris was 5-of-17 from the field, but also had 9 rebounds, 10 assists, and 2 steals. Quinahan had 14 points while Cruz added 13.
"Magnolia played really good defense on us in general especially on Manny. I guess it's just his competitive spirit and the rest of the guys so this is going to boost our confidence and give us some more momentum," said Guiao.
Before exchanging blows in the homestretch against the Hotshots, NLEX actually trailed by as many as 26 points. Guiao bared he almost gave up at halftime with his team trailing, 51-29.
But his wards refused to give up, and he couldn't help but be proud.
"I almost gave up on it actually in the first half. I was telling my assistant coaches maybe even if we lose it's going to be good for us because we need to feel that we're still not that good," Guiao revealed.
"We're still not that good so maybe a loss will be good for us. That was what we're talking about at halftime. But the boys didn't want to lose. Credit goes to them. Manny Harris just showed what kind of player he is."
NLEX 86 - Harris 22, Quinahan 14, Cruz 13, Erram 7, Ravena 7, Galanza 6, Paniamogan 5, Miranda 4, Soyud 4, Ighalo 4, Fonacier 0, Baguio 0,
Magnolia 85 - Lee 24, Sangalang 19, Travis 13, Barroca 10, Banchero 7, Pingris 5, Melton 4, Abundo 3, Reavis 0, Dela Rosa 0.
Quarterscores: 16-39, 29-51, 57-71, 86-85
- The Road Warriors were coming off a long layoff. They last played on October 30 against Rain or Shine.
- Paul Lee made huge buckets down the stretch, leading the way for Magnolia with 24 points, 7 rebounds, and 5 assists.
- NLEX's bench outscored Magnolia's, 46-18.
Magnolia - vs TNT on November 16 at the University of Southeastern Philippines Gym
NLEX - vs NorthPort on November 13 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum