The NLEX Road Warriors displayed composure down the stretch, hanging on late in the game to deal the Meralco Bolts their first loss, 100-94, in the 2017 Governor’s Cup, Sunday night at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
“A good way to bounce back from our Ginebra loss. We were kinda disappointed after that, because we felt we were off in that out-of-town game,” said NLEX head coach Yeng Guiao, as they’d absorbed their first taste of defeat this conference last August 5. “We did our preparation immediately after that.”
Four players scored in double figures in the win, with Aaron Fuller leading the pack with 25 points and 18 rebounds. Kevin Alas had an all-around game with 21 points on top of four rebounds and four assists.
With the game tied at 86 late in the payoff period, NLEX made seven straight points, capped by JR Quiñahan’s free throws, to establish a favorable seven-point cushion, 93-86, with 10 seconds approaching the two-minute mark.
The Bolts did not give up easily, though. They still punched in buckets in the last minute, and a Baser Amer triple trickled in and lifted them to within a single possession, 94-97, with just 10.4 seconds left to play.
But that proved to be the last run Meralco would have. Another of their shots missed, and charities by Fuller and a split by Alex Mallari with four ticks to go were enough to spell the end of the Bolts’ four-game winning streak.
“It’s still kind of surreal seeing ourselves on top of the standings. Beating a good team like Meralco is a good test. I think we passed a difficult test today,” added Guiao in the victory over Meralco, who are now down to 4-1.
Larry Fonacier supplied 16 points for NLEX, while Quiñahan made 10 markers.
Allen Durham led the Bolts with 26 points and 14 boards, while Reynel Hugnatan scored 25 of the Bolts’ 34 bench points.
Both squads will play on Friday, August 18, at the SMART-Araneta Coliseum. Meralco will battle the Phoenix Fuel Masters at 4:15 PM, while the Bolts will face the Blackwater Elite on Friday, August 18, 7:00 PM.
NLEX 100 – Fuller 25, Alas 21, Fonacier 16, Quinahan 10, Mallari 8, Soyud 5, Lastimosa 5, Tiongson 3, Al-Hussaini 2, Ighalo 2, Taulava 2, Rios 1, J. Villanueva 0.
Meralco 94 – Durham 26, Hugnatan 25, Amer 14, Sedurifa 9, Dillinger 8, Nabong 7, Newsome 5, Lanete 0, Caram 0, Chua 0, Tolomia 0.
Quarterscores: 16-24, 41-44, 63-64, 100-94.