ARE the NLEX Rod Warriors for real?
Even coach Yeng Guiao doesn’t have a concrete answer despite the team scoring a fourth straight win in the PBA Governors Cup on Sunday - a 95-91 drubbing of Phoenix at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The victory that wasn’t in the bag until the Road Warriors put together an 11-5 run in the final five minutes gave the team of a perfect 4-0 record and stayed alone on top of the standings.
Guiao himself is surprised at how his team managed to turn things around after twice ending up at the cellar in the season’s first two conferences.
“We have four wins pero hindi ko pa rin alam kung totoo ito o kunya-kunyarian lang,” said Guiao in the customary post-game interview.
But the NELX coach is very much pleased with what he’s been seeing with the team, which extended its winning streak to six dating back to the final two games of the Commissioner’s Cup.
“We’re still riding on the run. We’re still able to sustain it, and let’s see how far it will take us,” added Guiao. “But the signs are encouraging.”
Import Aaron Fuller had another double-double of 18 points and 24 rebounds, while Carlo Lastimosa came off the bench and contributed 14 points, 11 of them coming in the payoff period.
It was actually Lastimosa and Alex Mallari (14 points five rebounds, three assists) who instigated the Road Warriors’ breakaway in the stretch run, scoring 10 of the team’s 11 points during that stretch and gave NLEX a 93-87 lead from a tied 82-all game.
Mallari highlighted the scoring binge with a corner three-pointer – off a cross-court pass by Larry Fonacier – to eventually seal the deal with 9.5 seconds.
“The whole idea is to get the whole team growing, get others involved in making contributions for the win,” said Guiao.
“Tingnan natin kung yun, nga totoo ito o nagpapanggap lang ba kami talaga. Pero maganda naman yung senyales,” said Guiao.
“Tingnan natin sa next game,” added the NLEX mentor, whose team will have defending champion Barangay Ginebra for opponent on August 5 in Calasiao, Pangasinan.
Eugene Phelps had a game-high of 31 points and 18 rebounds for Phoenix, which suffered a second straight loss and fell to an even 2-2 record.
Gilas cadet Matthew Wright was the lone local to finish in double figures for the Fuel Masters with 17 points – including all 13 in the second quarter.
But the rookie wingman went cold in the second half, and was held to just four points in the payoff period, where the Fuel Masters failed to protect a 78-68 lead.
NLEX 95 - Fuller 18, Mallari 14, Lastimosa 14, Alas 13, Quinahan 10, Fonacier 5, Monfort 4, Soyud 4, Tiongson 4, Taulava 4, Rios 3, Baracael 2, J. Villanueva 0, Al-Hussaini 0, Ighalo 0.
PHOENIX 91 - Phelps 31, Wright 17, Baguio 8, Jazul 8, Dehesa 8, Eriobu 7, Kramer 4, Intal 4, Lanete 4, W. Wilson 0, Alolino 0, Borboran 0.
Quarterscores: 14-15; 39-43; 64-69; 95-91.