THE NLEX Road Warriors' campaign in the 2015 Dubai International Basketball Invitationals suffered a blow on Wednesday when they lost to Al Zamalek-Egypt, 67-73, at the end of the eliminations at the Ah Ahli Club.
Former Florida International University forward Tymell Murphy finished with 22 points to lead Al Zamalek, which beat out NLEX for the second seeding in Group A going to the knockout quarterfinals.
The two teams finished the eliminations with a 2-2 (win-loss) card behind Group A top seed Al Riyadi-Lebanon, which dealt the Road Warriors their only other loss in the elims phase.
“It was a tough day at the office,” said NLEX star Asi Taulava shortly after their game that finished at 1 a.m. of Wednesday, Manila time. “We just have to adjust and again learn from it.”
NLEX now faces Group B second seed Morocco at the start of the knockout rounds on Thursday.
Egypt lost to the United Arab Emirates, 94-103, last Saturday but came out firing against NLEX, building a 36-27 lead at halftime and holding off repeated rallies toward the end.
“It was a very close game. With how bad we played, we almost won," said Taulava, admitting that fatigue is also starting to set in for NLEX. "Playing four games in five days is tough, if you’re not used to it.”
Egypt, which was allowed to play two of its three American imports at a time, also got significant contributions from Corey Williams and Djimadoum Bandoumel.
“The guy (Murphy) was playing so well and our defense wasn’t there,” said Taulava.
NLEX team manager Ronald Dulatre said he hopes the Road Warriors will hit top form in time for the playoffs.
“We haven’t played to our potential. I just hope our practice today will be some sort of an enlightenment to the team for us to be more mentally tough and act with urgency,” said Dulatre.
“Our mission here is to prepare ourselves for the coming Commissioner’s Cup, but I won’t be a hypocrite and not say that we want to end our campaign here on a high note," hr added. "Ang dami kasi nating mga kababayan rito ang umaasa.”
The other quarterfinal pairings pit Al-Riyadi-Lebanon against Al-Shabab UAE, UAE against AND 1-USA and Egypt clashing with Sagesse-Lebanon (Team B).
Al Zamalek-Egypt 73 - Murphy 22, Abdala 17, Williams 15, Bandoumel 7, Elmekawi 7, Hussein 5, Hatem 0, Mohamed 0, Melek 0, Elsaarawy 0, Esherbini 0
NLEX-Philippines 67 - Thornton 18, Taulava 12, Cardona 12, Canaleta 12, J. Villanueva 7, Borboran 4, E. Villanueva 2, Lingganay 0, Camson 0, Ramos 0, Baloria 0