BLACKWATER looked like a rejuvenated team after the All-Star break as it held off NLEX, 104-98, to stay alive in the playoff race of the PBA Commissioner’s Cup on Wednesday night at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
The Elite established an early lead that they maintained throughout before shrugging off a late stand by the Road Warriors to register only their second win in eight games.
Greg Smith registered 24 points, 18 boards, and missed a triple-double by just three assists, while Nino Canaleta and Mike DiGregrio provided ample support to their import as the Elite kept the Road Warriors winless after eight outings.
The Road Warriors have also lost 11 straight games dating back to the Philippine Cup, just two losses away from coach Yeng Guiao matching his longest losing streak since as far back as 1995 when he was still coaching Pepsi, according to chief statistician Fidel Mangonon III.
“Going into the game, I just told my players to just give ourselves a good chance of making it in the final round,” Elite coach Leo Isaac said after the game.
“We’re just prepping ourselves to be in a situation where we can enjoy the games against San Miguel and Ginebra,” he added ahead of another winnable game on Sunday against Mahindra before taking on the SMC teams.
Smith set the tone for the wire-to-wire victory, scoring 10 of his output in the first quarter, where the Elite built a double-double lead that grew to as many as 18 points.
DiGregorio set a new career high of 22 points, on top of four assists, three boards, and two steals while Canaleta fired 24 points, three on a left-corner triple that put the Elite up, 94-84, halfway through the payoff period.
The Road Warriors made a late run, pulling to within four points, 102-98, after two free throws by Sean Anthony, but Wayne Chism and Jansen Rios missed wide-open three-point attempts in their next offensive possession to enable Blackwater to hold on.
Kevin Alas led NLEX with 18 points, four boards, and two assists, but Chism was held to just nine points on 4-of-20 shooting against 15 boards in 32 minutes.
BLACKWATER 104 – Smith 24, Canaleta 24, Digregorio 22,Cruz 9, Pinto 7, Pascual 6, Cervantes 4, Aguilar 4, Sena 2, Gamalinda 2, Sumang 0, Buenafe 0
NLEX 98 – Alas 18, Al-Hussaini 17, Lastimosa 10, Taulava 10, Anthony 9, Chism 9, Khobuntin 8, Camson 5, Villanueva J. 4, Monfort 4, Soyud 3, Rios 1, Tiongson 0, Guinto 0, Baracael 0
Quarterscores: 28-17, 49-42, 86-68, 104-98