CEBU CITY – NLEX came all the way back from a 20-point deficit and leaned on the torrid scoring of sophomore guard Garvo Lanete in overtime to stun sister team Meralco, 98-94, and capture the championship in the Recoletos Invitational Cup on Friday night at a packed University of San Jose-Recoletos Coliseum.
Forced into the extra session by an improbable banked-in three-pointer by Meralco’s Baser Amer at the buzzer, NLEX kept its composure and turned to Lanete who promptly delivered by scoring all but one the team's 15-point output in etxra time.
Lanete capped off his incredible evening by scoring the Road Warriors’ last 11 points including six straight free throw. The San Beda-product finished the game with 21 points.
Sweet shooting big man Raul Soyud added 19 points while Mac Baracael added 14, 11 of which came in the third which brought NLEX back from a 27-43 halftime deficit.
The Road Warriors were on their way to the win late in the fourth as they led, 82-78, after a short jumper by Baracael. But Meralco trimmed the lead in half as he stole the rock and went all the way for a thunderous slam dunk.
The Bolts had a shot at tying the game after Road Warriors guard Carlo Lastimosa threw an errant pass with 25.8 ticks left. But Baracael stole the ball away from Meralco’s Joseph Yeo and split his charities for an 83-80 lead, 5.6 ticks left on the clock.
Off a timeout, the Bolts inbounded the ball to Yeo who nearly lost it at midcourt but saved it to Reynel Hugnatan who then shoveled it to Amer, who, with a second left, heaved it up and banked in a triple as the buzzer sounded to tie the count at 83-all.
With momentum on their side, Meralco drew first blood in overtime behind a deuce by Ken Bono. But that proved to be the last time the Bolts held the lead as Lanete canned a three, and, after a free-throw by Bradwyn Guinto, swished another shot from beyond the arc to give NLEX a 90-85 advantage.
Meralco pulled within two, 88-90, after a transition bucket by Anjo Caram and a free-throw by Jonathan Uyloan but Lanete responded with a tough baseline lay-up off a picture-perfect pass from Guinto to put them in front by four.
The Bolts kept the pressure up in the game’s dying seconds but Lanete continually kept them at bay by calmly making six straight free throws down the stretch to seal the victory for NLEX.
Amer led Meralco with 16 points.