HISTORY repeated itself as NLEX shut down Meralco, 104-99, to get back on the winning track in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup on Friday at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
The Road Warriors used a late salvo in the third period to turn the game around and take the lead for good on the way to dealing the Bolts their second straight loss – the first to San Miguel Beer – after starting the conference with five straight wins.
The result thus mirrored what happened to the Bolts in the last midseason tournament where they also suffered their first two losses at the hands of SMB and NLEX, respectively.
Al Thornton recovered from a woeful offensive performance, tallying 38 points on 13-of-20 on top of 12 boards to lead the Road Warriors, who snapped a two-game skid to put their win-loss record on level terms at 3-3.
“But it’s really our defense that gave us this win,” Road Warriors coach Boyet Fernandez said. “I’m hoping this would be a good start for us.”
The Bolts were in the driver’s seat most of the way and still led, 62-50, early in the third, but the Road Warriors clamped down from thereon, banking on a run that saw them gain a 97-84 lead midway through fourth – completing a 25-point turnaround.
The Bolts managed the pull within striking distance at three points twice within the last two minutes, but came no closer than that.
Garvo Lanete provided the most local support to Thornton, firing 14 points on top of two steals, and an assist and rebound each in just 18 minutes.
Eight players scored at least eight points each for the Bolts, but Arinze Onuaku was held to just 16 points on 12 attempts, although the Meralco import did have 18 boards.
NLEX 104 – Thornton 38, Lanete 14, Alas 10, Anthony 9, Taulava 8, Khobuntin 7, Villanueva E. 7, Enciso 6, Villanueva J. 3, Reyes 2, Borboran 0, Arboleda H. 0
MERALCO 99 – Onuaku 16, Amer 14, Dillinger 14, Alapag 11, Ferriols 10, Newsome 10, Faundo 8, Hugnatan 8, Hodge 4, Bono 2, Caram 2, Buenafe Ronjay 0, David 0
Quarterscores: 24-31, 50-57, 81-79, 104-99