NLEX continued to lean on its rookie sensation that already plays like a veteran as it held off Alaska, 105-99, to take Game One of their PBA Philippine Cup quarterfinal series on Monday night at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Kiefer Ravena delivered in back-to-back crucial plays down the stretch, dishing out to Michael Miranda for the go-ahead floater, before scoring four of the Road Warriors’ last six points that spared them the blushes after giving up a double-digit lead.
Ravena finished with 25 points on 9-of-14 shooting, eight assists, one board, and one steal, while Larry Fonacier added 18 points, including a crucial four-point play that turned the momentum to the Road Warriors at crunchtime.
“I’m just relieved that Game One is over – that’s the good news,” NLEX coach Yeng Guiao said. “The bad news is, we have to go through this again.”
Game Two of the best-of-three series is on Wednesday at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum. The winner of the series will face the winner of the pairing between twice-to-beat Magnolia and GlobalPort.
At least, the Road Warriors took care of business in the series opener to grab their first playoff win in franchise history since the 2015 Philippine Cup.
For a while, though, the Road Warriors looked like they were poised for a runaway win as they established a 50-39 lead late in the first half, before the Aces tightened their defensive screws in the second half to close the gap.
Ravena, though, kept the Road Warriors afloat in the payoff period where the 24-year-old playmaker scored 12 of his output, while Fonacier knocked down the huge three-pointer and drew a foul at the same time to hit the bonus charity that tied the game at 96 with two minutes and 39 seconds left, before Ravena dished out to Miranda for the go-ahead basket.
The result spoiled the return of Chris Banchero, who hardly showed signs that he was coming off an injury as he led the Aces with 20 points, five boards, four steals, and one assist in 32 minutes.
Calvin Abueva added 18, but committed that crucial foul on Fonacier that resulted in that rare four-point play.
NLEX 105 — Ravena 25, Fonacier 18, Alas 17, Quiñahan 12, Miranda 10, Baguio 8, Al-Hussaini 4, Soyud 4, Taulava 4, Tiongson 3, Gotladera 0, Mallari 0
ALASKA 99 — Banchero 20, Abueva 18, Enciso 16, Thoss 11, Casio 8, Magat 4, Racal 4, Teng 4, Baclao 1, Cruz 0, Exciminiano 0
Quarterscores: 24-22, 50-40, 74-72, 105-99