Blackwater pounces on shorthanded NLEX to get back on winning track
Art dela Cruz got his way against an undermanned NLEX side. Jaime Campos

BLACKWATER pounced on a shorthanded NLEX as it rolled to a 96-85 decision to get back on track in the PBA Philippine Cup on Wednesday at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.

Facing a Road Warriors side without two big men in Asi Taulava and Rico Villanueva, the Elite established an early lead that they managed to sustain to snap a two-game skid and get back above .500 with a 3-2 win-loss card.

Art dela Cruz and Kyle Pascual took advantage of the Road Warriors’ shallow frontline as they showed the way for the Elite, who dealt their opponents their third loss in four games.

“It just so happened that NLEX was lacking key players and Blackwater just took advantage of that situation,” Elite coach Leo Isaac said as the Road Warriors also missed Garvo Lanete to an ankle injury.

“Although we did prepare well for this game considering the two consecutive setbacks, we had to get back to our senses and back to the basics,” he added. “Buti na lang this situation was available to propel us back to our winning ways.”

Dela Cruz registered a team-high 18 points, including two on a turnaround floater in a mismatch over the shorter Carlo Lastimosa that gave the Elite their biggest lead at 87-72 halfway through the fourth. The versatile forward also missed a double-double by just two rebounds in 26 minutes.

Pascual added 16 markers, including 10 in the fourth period where the Road Warriors came no closer than seven points.

Rookie sensation Mac Belo, coming in averaging 18 points, was held to his lowest output so far with just nine points after going scoreless in the first half, but he still contributed when it mattered for the Elite to regain their bearings.

Lastimosa led NLEX with a game-high 23 points in 24 minutes, but dished out a measly assist one grabbed just one rebound against four turnovers.

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The scores:

BLACKWATER 96 – Dela Cruz 18, Pascual 16, Buenafe 13, Sena 11, Belo 9, Aguilar 8, Cervantes 7, Pinto 6, Ababou 4, Gamalinda 2, Miranda 2, Sumang 0

NLEX 85 - Lastimosa 23, Baracael 16, Soyud 9, Anthony 8, Camson 6, Guinto 6, Khobuntin 5, Alas 4, Monfort 4, Rios 2, Villanueva J. 2

Quarterscores: 24-18, 47-41, 77-64, 96-85

Follow the writer on Twitter: @KarloSacamos