By Michael Angelo S. Murillo, Senior Reporter

The NLEX Road Warriors finally notched that elusive first win in the PBA Philippine Cup, defeating the Northport Batang Pier, 102-88, in their battle of struggling teams on Wednesday at the Angeles University Foundation Gym in Pampanga.

NLEX (1-3) came out with a steadier thrust on both ends of the court all throughout the match to finally barge into the win column of the ongoing Philippine Basketball Association tournament after four tries while sending Northport (0-4) reeling to their fourth straight defeat. 

The Road Warriors had control of the opening half on the lead of Kiefer Ravena and veterans JR Quinahan and Jericho Cruz.

They would take a 20-15 lead after the first 12 minutes of the contest then proceeded to establish an even wider lead of 10 points, 49-39, at the halfway point of the match.

In the third canto, the Batang Pier tried to reclaim some ground and fight back.

They narrowed the gap to five points, 63-58, with 5:37 on the clock.

NLEX, though, would stay ahead the rest of the quarter, taking a 75-68 lead entering the fourth quarter.

Despite continuously being frustrated by the Road Warriors, the Batang Pier remained undeterred.

They opened the payoff frame with an 8-2 run, led by Kevin Ferrer, to come within one point, 77-76, at the 10:27 mark.

But NLEX survived the onslaught, answering with a 16-2 run in the next five minutes to widen the gap once again, 93-78.

It was a hole that proved to be too deep to recover from for Northport as it went on to slump to the defeat.  

Mr. Ravena led the way for NLEX with 25 points with Mr. Quinahan adding 17.

Kevin Alas had all-around numbers of 16 points, 10 rebounds and six assists for the Road Warriors. 

Mr. Ferrer, meanwhile, was the high point man for Northport with 18 points, followed by rookie Sean Manganti with 16.

Christian Standhardinger only had seven points but had 13 rebounds and five assists.

Sean Anthony was not able to finish the game for the Batang Pier because of a suspected pulled hamstring he absorbed in the first quarter. 

Incidentally, Wednesday’s matches were played under the pall of the news earlier in the day of the league having its first possible case of the coronavirus.

In a statement, the PBA said a referee tested positive for the virus after undergoing a swab test on Monday, the result of which came out on Tuesday night.

The referee was said to be showing no symptoms of the coronavirus but was already taken to the quarantine facility in Capas, Tarlac, for observation. 

A follow-up swab test was scheduled for the person under monitoring on Wednesday to ascertain the findings.

First and second layer contacts of the referee have been identified and were asked to go into isolation. They will be retested on Saturday, Oct. 24.  

With the development, the PBA moved to reassure that there was nothing to worry about and it was dealing with the situation accordingly, saying, “Safety and security of all is our paramount concern.”