Kiefer Ravena scored 21 points, including the winning jumper with nearly no time left on the game clock, to help NLEX top Meralco 87-85 in the PBA Philippine Cup at Cuneta Astrodome on Friday.
NLEX appeared ready to go home with the win much earlier when Ravena's stepback 3-pointer and 2 free throws by JR Quiñahan broke a tied game and gave the Road Warriors an 85-82 lead with 18 seconds left.
But Chris Newsome's 3-point play on a barreling layup and a bonus free throw off Ravena's foul knotted the score again.
NLEX then called the final play for Ravena, who buried the fadeaway 16-footer with Newsome virtually draped on him on defense.
NLEX upped its record to 4-4 to tie with 3 other teams, while Meralco fell to 2-6.
"Kiefer just made the big shots like a veteran, like somebody who is a 10-year veteran in this league," NLEX head coach Yeng Guiao said.
"I had no hesitation setting up the plays for him because I know he will make the right decisions. Whether he made those shots or not, I would not have faulted him for the decisions that he made."
It was an efficient night for the rookie, who shot 7 of 12 from the field, and 5 of 5 from the free-throw line. He added 7 rebounds, 4 assists and just 1 turnover.
Ravena stood out on a night when former Ateneo Blue Eagles players stepped up for NLEX and Meralco.
Larry Fonacier chipped in 17 points on a perfect 4-of-4 clip from 3-point land for NLEX.
For Meralco, Nico Salva led the way with 20 points (9 of 12 from the field), while Newsome registered 15 points, 10 rebounds and 9 assists in 44 turnover-less minutes.
NLEX fell behind by as many as 18 points early, then stormed back to make it a game in the second quarter. It was a see-saw battle between the two after halftime.
"It's a good thing we recovered," Guiao said of the weak start. "But I don't like winning this way. It's just too pressure-packed, too tension-filled. It's good for the fans, but it's bad for the coaches."
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