NLEX sustained its rise as it outdueled a shorthanded GlobalPort, 109-99, to move closer to a Top Four berth in the PBA Governors’ Cup on Sunday night at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
The Road Warriors took advantage of a Batang Pier side that missed the services of Stanley Pringle as they drew significant contribution from unlikely players to pull away late for their seventh win in nine games.
Juami Tiongson broke out of his shell and sparked the late salvo while Aaron Fuller continued to anchor the middle as he registered 33 points and 20 boards to lead the Road Warriors, who are one win away from doubling their win total in the last two conferences combined.
The Road Warriors also handed the Batang Pier their fourth loss in seven games, sending their victims crashing back to earth following a morale-boosting win over TNT Katropa where Pringle exploded for a career-high 30 points.
“Swerte kami dahil hindi nakapaglaro si Pringle,” NLEX coach Yeng Guiao said. “I was watching the TNT game and I was already contemplating on how will we stop this guy, but sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good. It’s a big break."
“Seven-two is a good place to be," he added of his quarterfinal-bound team. “We need one more win to get to the Top Four.”
And the Road Warriors have plenty to thank Tiongson for as the third-year playmaker pumped in a career-high 21 points along with four assists, firing 14 in the final frame where NLEX outscored GlobalPort, 31-23, and extended a one-point lead to as many as 12 points in the waning seconds.
JR Quinahan and Kevin Alas delivered as usual with 18 and 12 points, respectively, while Cyrus Baguio was the other NLEX player who scored in double figures. Alex Mallari scored back-to-back transition baskets in a crucial juncture in the fourth quarter that also factored in the late run.
Murphy Holloway led the Batang Pier with 29 points, 17 boards, six assists, six steals, and three blocks, against seven turnovers, while Terrence Romeo added 24 points and four assists against eight turnovers for GlobalPort, which fought back from an early 18-point deficit, only to lose steam in the end.
NLEX 109 – Fuller 33, Tiongson 21, Quinahan 18, Alas 12, Baguio 10, Mallari 8, Fonacier 4, Ighalo 3, Al-Hussaini 0, Lastimosa 0, J. Villanueva 0, Soyud 0, Taulava 0
GLOBALPORT 99 – Holloway 29, Romeo 24, Anthony 15, Cortez 9, Arana 9, Guinto 6, Cardona 4, Baracael 3, Mamaril 0, Hubalde 0, Celiz 0
Quarterscores: 33-22, 56-54, 78-76, 109-99