SUPER-SUB Baser Amer provided the spark for NLEX in the final moments, leading the second stringers in lifting the Road Warriors to a 70-68 win over Blackwater Sports on Thursday to get back to their winning ways in the PBA D-League Aspirants Cup at the Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig City.
Amer, the NCAA Finals MVP for San Beda who is seldom-used at NLEX this conference, had three points and four assists to spark the Road Warriors' crucial run from five-points down in the fourth as the D-league powerhouse quickly bounced back from a 66-52 defeat against Café France that halted its 24-game winning streak on Tuesday.
The Road Warriors also improved their win-loss record to 8-1, moving a step closer to an outright semifinal berth with one game remaining in the elimination round against Cebuana Lhuillier on December 20.
“I credit the guys who played in the last six minutes. I put up a defensive team out there and they just stepped up,” said a jubilant NLEX Boyet Fernandez.
So happy was Fernandez that he hugged Amer a few moments after the game ended.
“He is young but he will carry this team eventually. He will be the future of the D-League and I credit him for that. He really stepped up in the endgame. Credit to Baser and the other guys,” said Fernandez, who is also one of the assistant coaches at San Beda.
NLEX needed to survive a wild finish in the last 2.3 seconds of the game. Needing a basket with no timeouts left to force overtime, Blackwater’s Ian Mazo got the offensive rebound after Kevin Ferrer deliberately missed his second free throw. Mazo, however, missed a short jumper to end the game.
Amer set the stage for the NLEX breakaway, forcing a traveling violation on Blackwater point guard Jeric Fortuna. That led to Kirk Long, the only starter late in the fourth, burying a triple to cap off an 11-2 run with two minutes and 17 seconds to play that put NLEX ahead, 68-62.
Ronald Pascual led the Road Warriors in scoring with 12 points while RR Garcia had 11 markers. Nico Salva added nine.
The Road Warriors’ biggest lead was only at seven points, 31-24, in the second period. The Elite, however, stayed in contention with a furious third-quarter finish to tie the count at 52-52.
Justin Chua connected on two three-point plays that got Blackwater Sports ahead, 58-53.
University of Santo Tomas cagers Karim Abdul and Ferrer had 13 points each for Blackwater Sports, which now holds a 4-2 win-loss slate in a four-way tie for second place with Big Chill, Cagayan Valley, and Café France.
NLEX (70) – R. Pascual 12, Garcia 11, Salva 9, Slaughter 7, Long 7, J. Pascual 6, Hermida 4, Camson 4, Amer 3, Sumalinog 3, Lanete 2, Alas 1, Sangalang 1, Ganuelas 0.
Blackwater Sports (68) – Abdul 13, Ferrer 13, Chua 9, G. Ciriacruz 8, Llagas 7, Fortuna 5, Mazo 4, Celiz 4, Bagatsing 3, Mangahas 2.
Quarterscores: 12-10; 31-28; 52-52; 70-68.