THE hoop gods finally smiled on NLEX as it stunned Alaska, 100-92, to barge into the win column of the PBA Commissioner’s Cup on Wednesday night at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
The Road Warriors overcame a slow start and the absence of an import down the stretch, fighting back from a deep 20-point deficit to finally grab a first win after starting the conference with nine losses, stopping a skid that swelled to 13 games dating back to last conference.
Kevin Alas and Rabeh Al-Hussaini led the local crew in the endgame in the absence of import Wayne Chism, who fouled out with 5:20 left in the game after picking up back-to-back fouls.
The Road Warriors' bad luck appeared to transfer to the Aces, who have now lost five straight after starting the conference with four successive wins, endangering their playoff bid.
“We tried to just prove to ourselves that two weeks ago, we made some hard decisions, gusto lang naming i-validate na tama yung mga ginawa namin,” coach Yeng Guiao said in the post-game conference. “A sign of a good trade is both teams should benefit.”
“And we caught a big fish. Alaska is one of the top teams," the champion coach added as he avoided breaking his longest losing streak as a coach after also losing 13 straight games with Pepsi in 1995.
Early on, it was the Aces looked poised to break their losing streak as they established a 35-15 lead late in the first quarter, before the Road Warriors outscored them in the second period, 33-13, to suddenly turn the game around at the half.
It was the second straight game where the Aces gave up a huge lead after wasting a 17-point cushion against TNT KaTropa last Saturday in Legazpi.
Chism finished with 22 points and six boards in 28 minutes before going out at the 5:20 mark, while new recruits Juami Tiongson JR Quinahan, and Al-Hussaini along with Alas all contributed significant numbers.
Cory Jefferson led the Aces with 36 points, 20 boards, and three blocks that went for naught.
NLEX 100 – Chism 22, Tiongson 16, Quinahan 16, Alas 11, Al-Hussaini 9, Mallari 7, Monfort 6, Soyud 5, Rios 4, Lastimosa 2, Baracael 2, Ighalo 0, Taulava 0
ALASKA 92 – Jefferson 36, Manuel 17, Abueva 12, Casio 10, Racal 5, Banchero 3, Thoss 2, Enciso 2, Exciminiano 2, Mendoza 2, Pascual 1, Cruz 0, Galliguez 0, Hontiveros 0
Quarterscores: 18-35, 51-48, 76-75, 100-92