AKL Rodrigue could only heave a sigh of relief after NLEX managed to escape with an 88-85 win over Star despite missing two crucial free throws in the waning seconds of their PBA Governors Cup game on Friday night at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The Lebanese, who plays as the Road Warriors’ Asian import in the season-ending conference, was put on the pressure cooker in the final 3.2 seconds when the Hotshots fouled him with NLEX protecting a slim 88-85 lead.
To NLEX’s horror, both his free throws fell short, giving the Hotshots one final attempt for a game-tying three-pointer.
Marc Barroca’s heave from downtown however, fell short, enabling the Road Warriors to escape with the victory and snap a three-game losing skein.
“Good thing we got the win,” said Rodrigue with a smile. “We tried to cover it up with defense (to get the win), and it made me feel better.”
Despite his bungled free throws, coach Boyet Fernandez said his confidence in the 27-year-old member of the Lebanon national team is unshaken.
“I’m sure next time Akl will deliver those free throws. May tiwala naman ako,” he said.
Akl admitted being bothered a bit when he failed to make the first free throw.
“After I missed the first one, it got into my head,” said the Lebanese, who added he was never nervous while he was on the foul line.
Akl, who wears an arm sleeve bearing the Red Bull name as an endorser of its can product, finished with only two points, four rebounds, and two assists in 21 minutes of play. The two foul shots were the only attempt he had during the game, which probably explained why he missed it, according to Fernandez.
“Kaya lang hindi siya nakapag-free throw kahit minsan, kaya medyo stiff,” said Fernandez. “But I really appreciate the way he played defense today. Probably, he had some turnovers pero maganda naman yung rotation nila ni Kevin (Alas sa backcourt).”