NLEX couldn’t have picked a better time to end a losing streak as it stunned Rain or Shine, 111-106, on Saturday to deny the Elasto Painters of an outright semifinal berth in the Smart Bro-PBA Philippine Cup at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
Sean Anthony rose to the occasion, scattering 13 points in the final frame, including his team’s last eight points within the last three minutes to lead the Road Warriors’ remarkable comeback from 13 points down.
In all, the do-it-all forward reset his career-high to 37 points in 36 minutes for the Road Warriors, who were already out of contention for a twice-to-beat edge in the quarterfinals, yet still came through when it mattered most to snap a four-game skid and play the spoiler's role.
“We wanted to have a positive outlook going to the quarterfinals,” Road Warriors coach Boyet Fernandez said. “Even though we had four straight losses, I just told the boys that eventually we will win. We just had to think positive.”
Mac Cardona also shone on the defensive end with two steals down the stretch, the second one on Jeff Chan that led to a fastbreak layup by Anthony that put the outcome of the game beyond doubt.
NLEX, which finished the elimination round with a 5-6 win-loss record for seventh spot, will face the loser of the Barangay Ginebra-Talk ‘N Text, which will end up at sixth.
Instead of claiming the top seed, the Painters wound up at third spot after absorbing a third loss in 11 games, taking on the winner of Mahindra-Blackwater on Sunday.
Beau Belga fired 18 points before fouling out to lead seven players with at least nine points for the Painters, who looked headed for a one-sided win when they built an 82-69 cushion late in the third quarter.
That, however, set the stage for the Road Warriors fightback, capped by Anthony, who mounted on a one-man 8-2 run to finish the game.
NLEX 111 – Anthony 37, Taulava 15, J. Villanueva 14, Cardona 11, Alas 9, Lanete 7, Enciso 6, Reyes 6, Villanueva E. 6, Borboran 0, Khobuntin 0
ROS 106 – Belga 18, Chan 15, Ponferada 13, Tiu 11, Almazan 10, Cruz 9, Nimes 9, Quinahan 6, Ahanmisi 5, Norwood 5, Teng 3, Matias 2, Trollano 0
Quarterscores: 33-32, 56-61, 83-88, 111-106