By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
NEW import but same result for the NLEX Road Warriors as they improved to a 5-1 record in the Philippine Basketball Association Governors’ Cup with a 117-111 victory over the Columbian Dyip on Wednesday at the Ynares Center in Antipolo City.
Parading a new reinforcement in Manny Harris, taking the place of Olu Ashaolu, the Road Warriors did not skip a beat in their fine form as they continued to find ways to stay on top of the Dyip all game long on their way to their second straight victory in the season-ending PBA tournament.
The match got off to frenetic pace with both teams going on runs and counter-runs.
Mr. Harris would explode early to push his team to a 20-8 advantage in the opening nine minutes.
But Columbian eventually found its footing to narrow the gap to five points, 25-20, with 42 ticks to go in the frame before Kevin Ighalo hit a triple for NLEX to give his team a 28-20 lead at the end of the first canto.
In the second quarter it was the Dyip’s turn to wax hot on the lead of import Khapri Alston and guard Juami Tiongson.
They would outscore the Road Warriors, 15-8, to cut their deficit to just a point, 36-35, by the 5:47 mark.
NLEX though answered with a 16-4 run in the next four minutes to stretch its lead to 13 points, 52-39.
It eventually settled for a 54-44 lead at the break.
In the third quarter the Road Warriors continued to maintain control despite repeated attempts by the Dyip to claw their way back.
NLEX held a 75-61 advantage with 5:11 remaining in the quarter and used it as leverage to maintain a safe distance of 87-77 with one period left to play.
Columbian began the fourth canto with more aggressiveness and drive, going on a 19-13 run to come close to four points, 100-96, at the 5:01 mark.
The game continued to be tight as it hit the last two minutes with the count knotted at 104-all.
Mr. Harris gave back the lead to the Road Warriors, 106-104, with a jumper with 1:46 left only to be answered back by Mr. Alston with two free throws to make it 106-all six seconds later.
JR Quiñahan was then fouled taking a three-pointer by Jackson Corpuz with 1:07 to go and hit all his free throws to preserve the order for NLEX, 109-106.
Columbian sued for time to set up a play. But their attempts were thwarted by the NLEX defense each time, made worse by the turnover of CJ Perez with 43 second left. NLEX capitalized on it with Mr. Harris connecting on an and-one play with 37 seconds remaining to make it a six-point lead, 112-106.
The Dyip desperately made moves to salvage the win but NLEX would have none of that as it held on tough for the win.
Mr. Harris had an explosive debut for the Road Warriors with 45 points to go along with five rebounds, four assists, three steals and three blocks.
Mr. Quiñahan had 15 points while Kiefer Ravena had 11 points and eight assists.
For Columbian, which dropped to 3-3, it was Mr. Perez who showed the way with 21 points.
Mr. Corpuz followed him with 20 points while Mr. Alston had 19 points and 17 rebounds and Tiongson 18 points.