NLEX showed Meralco it can also make its own immediate transformation from cellar dweller to legitimate title contender as it held off its sister team, 100-94, to get back on the winning track in the PBA Governors’ Cup on Sunday night at the Mall of Asia Arena.
The Road Warriors bucked a slow start with a solid showing in the middle quarters, before proving steadier in the endgame against the Bolts to deal their victims their first loss in five games.
Aaron Fuller delivered another workmanlike effort with 25 points, 18 boards, and two blocks, while Kevin Alas, Larry Fonacier, and JR Quinahan all thrived in a bench role this time to lead the Road Warriors, who proved their road loss to Ginebra was a fluke as they jacked up their record to 5-1.
“I think the maturity of this team is just developing,” NLEX coach Yeng Guiao said.
“It’s still surreal seeing our team on top of the standings, beating a very good team in Meralco,” he added of the losing finalist of the last edition of the season-ending tournament. "We’re trying to do a reality check…and this was a good test.”
Alas sustained his fine form, pouring in 21 points, including 11 in the payoff period, along with four boards, four assists, two steals, and one block in almost 34 minutes off the bench where Fonacier and Quinahan provided stability and clutch baskets.
Fonacier finished with 16 points, seven boards, two assists, and two steals, while Quinahan added 10 points and six boards – and scored on the tip-in crucial tip-in that quelled the Bolts’ rally.
Allen Durham, coming off a triple-double performance, registered 26 points and 14 board against six turnovers, while Reynel Hugnatan put up a rejuvenated showing, tallying 25 points and missing a double-double by just one rebound.
Baser Amer chipped in 14 points, including two big triples in the endgame, the last one nudging the Bolts to within 94-97 with 12 seconds left before Fuller iced the game with two charities on the other end.
NLEX 100 - Fuller 25, Alas 21, Fonacier 16, Quinahan 10, Mallari 8, Soyud 5, Lastimosa 5, Tiongson 3, Al-Hussaini 2, Ighalo 2, Taulava 2, Rios 1, J. Villanueva 0
MERALCO 94 - Durham 26, Hugnatan 25, Amer 14, Sedurifa 9, Dillinger 8, Nabong 7, Newsome 5, Lanete 0, Caram 0, Chua 0, Tolomia 0
Quarterscores: 16-24, 41-44, 63-64, 100-94