With less than nine minutes left on Sunday at the Araneta Coliseum, the dream start seemed to be over for NLEX.
Not if Carlo Lastimosa and Alex Mallari had anything to say about it, however.
Lastimosa and Mallari combined for 20 points in the last nine minutes as the Road Warriors came from behind to burn Phoenix, 95-91, and remain unscathed in the 2017 PBA Governor’s Cup.
Behind by 10, 68-78, at the 8:50 mark of the final frame, Yeng Guiao’s wards looked like they were going to get their first taste of defeat in the tournament.
It was at that point, however, that Lastimosa came alive and poured in all but two of his 14 points. “We’ve been able to hold our own and pull through in crisis situations. That’s a good sign for a team that’s really just trying to put it together,” the head coach said.
Still, the Fuel Masters were in the game inside the last minute until Mallari put the game away once and for all with a cold-blooded triple.
In the end, the heady guard had 14 points, eight coming in the last five minutes, on top of a total of five rebounds and three assists.
Showing they are also capable of comebacks, NLEX improved to 4-0 – a surprise for just about everybody after their struggles in the previous conference.
However, Guiao put the brakes on any contender chatter. “We have four wins, but I don’t know if this is true or we’re just being pretenders. The signs are good, but we’ll see in the next games,” he said.
For Phoenix, Eugene Phelps fronted the attack with 31 points, 18 rebounds, and six assists which still proved far from enough from preventing their second loss in a row and their drop to 2-2.
In the day’s other game, Greg Slaughter put Ginebra on his shoulders and carried them into the win column courtesy of a 124-106 rout of Globalport.
Slaughter, who has missed much of the last year and a half due to injury, flashed his old fine form and finished with 19 points, eight rebounds, and two blocks.
He wasn’t alone, however, as LA Tenorio scored 29 points all while spearheading an offense that caught fire from the end of the first quarter to the end of the game.
Only ahead by one after the opening salvo, Tenorio steered the Gin Kings into dominating their opponents, 64-48, in the middle periods.
Justin Brownlee was also still as solid as ever with a 21-point, 12-rebound double-double to help his team improve to 1-1.
American Murphey Holloway paced the Batang Pier with 36 points while Terrence Romeo also had 25 markers of his own. Without an answer for Slaughter and Tenorio, however, they fall to 1-2.
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.
QUARTER SCORES: 14-15, 39-43, 64-69, 95-91.
GINEBRA 124 – Tenorio 29, Brownlee 21, Slaughter 19, Devance 14, Thompson 13, Aguilar 9, Mariano 7, Cruz 4, Caguioa 4, Ellis 2, Taha 2, Jamito 0.
GLOBALPORT 108 – Holloway 36, GlobalPort 25, Pringle 18, Anthony 8, Arana 5, Maierhofer 4, Cortez 3, Pennisi 3, Aban 2, Guinto 2, Van Opstal 2, Grey 0, Ababou 0.
QUARTER SCORES: 29-28, 61-51, 93-76, 124-108.
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