THE NLEX Road Warriors gave their PBA Philippine Cup playoff push a boost after a big win over the Blackwater Elite, 122-101, in league action on Sunday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Using a fiery effort in the middle quarters, especially from beyond the arc, the Road Warriors built enough cushion to put away the Elite and win their second straight game to improve to 4-5 in the season-opening Philippine Basketball Association tourney, still in the running for a spot in the quarterfinals.
The two teams had it tight to begin the contest, jostling to establish early control.
NLEX got traction first, led by JP Erram and Kenneth Ighalo, racing to a 21-11 lead with four minutes remaining in the first quarter.
But Blackwater would finish the quarter strong as Allein Maliksi caught fire, going on an 11-2 run to cut the Road Warriors’ lead to just a solitary point at the end of the first 12 minutes, 23-22.
The second period saw the teams slugging it out anew, with NLEX just ahead by two, 31-29, after three minutes.
Then the Road Warriors made a ferocious run in the next four minutes, stretching their lead to eight points, 41-33.
It was a momentum it would ride on the rest of the way as they established a 15-point distance, 57-42 at the end of the first half.
The hot shooting of the Road Warriors continued in the third quarter, with more players on the firing end.
Philip Paniamogan and Bong Galanza helped NLEX build a 29-point lead, 84-55, with a little under five minutes to go.
Blackwater continued to fight though, led by Paul Desiderio and Mac Belo, slicing its deficit to 17 points, 89-72, heading into the final quarter.
The Elite opened the fourth period with six quick points, to cut further the Road Warriors’ lead to 11 points, 89-78, with 9:52 to go.
But NLEX regained its footing after, with Messrs. Ighalo and Erram providing key baskets to push their team to a 102-87 advantage at the midway point.
It pulled away to 20 points anew, 110-90, with a little over three minutes left and never looked back after.
Mr. Paniamogan paced all scorers with 25 points and Mr. Erram having a double-double of 20 points and 10 rebounds.
Mr. Galanza had 18 points and Mr. Ighalo 17. Juami Tiongson also had a double-double for NLEX with 13 points and 11 assists.
As a team, the Road Warriors had 21 three-pointers made.
For Blackwater it was Mr. Maliksi who led with 20 points with Michael DiGregorio and Abu Tratter adding 17 and 16 points, respectively.
Incidentally with the loss, the Elite dropped to 2-8, making it even harder for it to book a spot in the next round. — Michael Angelo S. Murillo