NLEX watched as Alaska missed four straight baskets underneath in the waning seconds of overtime to escape with a thrilling 99-97 win in the PBA Philippine Cup on Friday night at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
New acquisition Carlo Lastimosa split his free throws in the final 10.2 seconds that gave the Road Warriors a two-point lead, leaving the door open for a possible second extra period.
But to the Aces’ horror, RJ Jazul, Jaypee Mendoza, and Dondon Hontiveros (twice) failed to make their shots one after the other, allowing coach Yeng Guiao to notch his first win as new coach of the Road Warriors.
“Sometimes, its’ better to be lucky than good,” said Guiao later. “We’re lucky they missed four shots in the endgame and we’re lucky Calvin Abueva is still not playing (for them).”
Abueva was out with a slight tear on his quadricep, the same injury being nursed by Rome dela Rosa. A third Alaska player in Sonny Thoss also didn't suit up due to an injury called patellar tendinitis.
Still, the Aces had their chances, and were even holding on to an 88-86 lead with 1:20 left in regulation on a basket by Noy Baclao off a feed by Vic Manuel.
But Bradwyn Guinto tied the game at 88-all iafter scoring off Manuel’s sixth personal foul. He missed the bonus free throw though, that paved the way for overtime as JV Casio botched an Alaska play at the other end that could have given the Aces the lead in the final 2.5 seconds.
Lastimosa then missed a potential game-winning three-pointer as his shot at the buzzer was halfway in before rattling out.
"We need games like this to build the character for this team. We're putting in a new system, we're putting in a new culutre, but we need to face adversities like this to strengthen the team's character, the team's personality. So it's a good way to start," said Guiao.
Two players showed the way for NLEX with double-doubles. Sean Anthony topscored for 21 points and 14 rebounds, while off-season find Bryan Guinto added 17 markers and 10 boards.
Gilas cadet rookie Carl Bryan Cruz stepped up for the injury-plagued Aces with his own double-double of 20 points and 14 rebounds. Manuel backed him up with 19 and eight boards.
NLEX (99) - Anthony 21, Guinto 17, J. Villanueva 16, Lastimosa 15, Alas 6, Soyud 6, Khobuntin 5, Baracael 5, Lanete 3, Rios 3, Taulava 2, Monfort 0, Camson 0, Villanueva E. 0.
ALASKA (97) - Cruz 20, Manuel 19, Baclao 12, Jazul 10, Racal 9, Dela Cruz 7, Banchero 5, Casio 5, Hontiveros 5, Magat 3, Mendoza 2, Exciminiano 0. Galliguez 0.
Quarterscores: 28-17; 53-46; 67-65; 88-all (reg); 99-97.