Sigh of relief for NLEX as Alaska fightback from 30 points down falls just short
Kevin Alas of NLEX fights Calvin Abueva and Jeron Teng for the loose ball. Jerome Ascano

NLEX looked like it would be relieved that it would win an easy game for once after coming off two come-from-behind victories.

But the Road Warriors ended up letting out a sigh of relief for the wrong reasons on Sunday night as they had to survive Alaska’s furious fightback, snapping the Aces’ sizzling streak in the process with a 96-89 decision in their PBA Philippine Cup matchup at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.

The Road Warriors almost saw a huge 30-point lead disintegrate after letting the Aces go on a blistering 32-4 salvo in the middle of the payoff period, holding on long enough to pull off the hard-earned win.

Kevin Alas made up for some miscues with crucial charities, while Raul Soyud sparked the early surge for the Road Warriors, who improved to a 5-4 win-loss card and halted the Aces’ six-game win streak.

Alaska fell to 6-3 overall as the result left idle San Miguel Beer regaining the hold of top spot in the 12-team standings instead after erstwhile co-leaders Magnolia and the Aces suffered setbacks this weekend.

“I thought we would have a comfortable win, but I was wrong again,” NLEX coach Yeng Guiao said. “You really need a 30-ponit lead to beat Alaska. There’s a reason why they got six straight wins, and they were just probably due for a loss.”

“I think this win is good for us in terms of learning a lot of lessons,” he added.

The Road Warriors certainly have plenty of takeaways in the game where they nearly gave up their biggest lead at 87-57, which they established early in the final frame.

The Aces, tightening their defensive screws that proved to be the hallmark of their recent win streak, scored 19 unanswered points as they left NLEX scoreless for five minutes, before engaging the Road Warriors in a nip-and-tuck battle from thereon.

Alaska come closest at 91-89 following a Carl Bryan Cruz steal off the inbound and short stab with 13.9 seconds left, before the Road Warriors held on heaved a sigh of relief.

Alas finished with 15 points, eight boards, two assists, and one steal, against six turnovers in 30 minutes off the bench, while Soyud added 15 points on 6-of-7 shooting, and seven boards; Larry Fonacier also scored 15 markers that went with four boards and four assists.

Kiefer Ravena, who emerged the hero in their win over Meralco last Friday, added 12 points, 10 assists, six boards, two steals, and one block in 29 minutes, while JR Quinahan contributed 12 points, five assists, four boards, and three blocks.


JVee Casio, Vic Manuel, and Jeron Teng all scored 12 points apiece to lead the Aces in their comeback that fell short.


The scores:

NLEX 96 — Alas 15, Fonacier 15, Soyud 15, Quiñahan 12, Ravena 12, Miranda 8, Tiongson 8, Mallari 4, Baguio 3, Al-Hussaini 2, Gotladera 2, Taulava 0.

ALASKA 89 — Casio 12, Manuel 12, Teng 12, Abueva 10, Cruz 10, Enciso 10, Exciminiano 7, Banchero 4, Racal 4, Thoss 4, Potts 3, J. Pascual 1, Baclao 0

Quarterscores: 29-18, 52-32, 79-54, 96-89

Follow the writer on Twitter: @KarloSacamos