MANILA, Philippines - NLEX survived a fourth quarter meltdown as it made key plays down the stretch to eke out a scrambling 91-87 victory over Jose Rizal University to remain unscathed in the PBA D-League Aspirants’ Cup at the Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig City.
From going 20 points up in the second quarter to trailing by five points in the final 40 seconds of the contest, the Road Warriors charged back with a 10-1 run anchored on a clutch five-point splurge by RR Garcia to post their third straight victory.
Blackwater Sports, meanwhile, smothered Boracay Rum, 84-60, to even its card at 1-1.
Kevin Ferrer tallied 17 points while Justine Chua and Ian Mazo contributed 12 apiece for the Dioceldo Sy-owned Elite, who broke away in the second quarter and led by as many as 29 points at the end of the third.
Paolo Taha scored 16 points and Toto Bandaying had 11 markers for the Waves, who dropped to 0-4.
Jake Pascual paced NLEX with 17 points while NCAA MVP Ian Sangalang had 15 points and a steal that led to a Ronald Pascual’s three-point play in the dying seconds.
It was Garcia, however, who came up with the biggest plays, hitting a triple that pushed the Road Warriors back to within one and canning two pressure-packed charities with less than a second to go to seal the victory.
"It's my fault had we lost. I tried to give everybody playing time and somehow it messed up our chemistry. We all learned a lot from this game," said NLEX coach Boyet Fernandez, who kept shuffling his men after the Road Warriors built what had appeared to be an insurmountable, 39-19, advantage midway in the second quarter.
His ploy backfired as the defending champions took poor shot selections and played sloppy defense, enabling the Bombers to get back into the game.
"This is a wake-up call for me. Now the players realized we got to have a system and some of us will have to make sacrifices," said Fernandez.
NLEX shot 42 percent form the field in the second half and finished the game shooting 43 percent.
The Bombers failed to handle the pressure as they blew chances to snatch the win.
Kenneth Ighalo quickly threw the inbound pass to Khazim Mirza that led to Sanggalang's steal.
The NLEX center quickly tossed the ball to Pascual, who nailed a 10-footer. Fouled by Rocky Acidre on that play, Pascual made the bonus shot to give NLEX an 89-87 lead.
Another Ighalo turnover led to two more free throws by Garcia for the final count.
It was a sorry setback for the Bombers, who battled back from 20 points down to surge ahead, 86-81, on four straight points by Ighalo with 40 seconds to play.
The Road Warriors missed their first 10 field goals of the fourth while the Bombers outrebounded their rivals, 40-37.
Acidre went 4 of 5 from three-point range and went on lead all scorers with 21 points. Mirza scored 19, Dexter Maiquez had 14 and Ighalo chipped in 11 and 10 rebounds for the Bombers, who dropped to 0-2.
NLEX 91 – J. Pascual 17, Sanggalan 15, Garcia 10, Pacual R. 9, Lanete 9, Alas 8, Camson 7, Salva 6, Long 4, Sumalinog 4, Hermida 2, Amer 0, Ganuelas 0.
JRU 87 – Acidre 21, Mirza 19, Maiquez 14, Ighalo 11, Pinto 8, Miranda 6, Caperal 4, Villarias 2, Apinan 2, Lopez 0, Almario 0.
Quarterscores: 26-17; 45-33; 67-63; 91-87
Blackwater Sports 84 – Ferrer 17, Chua 12, Mazo 12, Fortuna 9, Celiz 8, Llagas 6, Ciriacruz 6, Bagatsing 5, Ciriacruz I. 4, Mangahas 3, Andul 2, Lo 0.
Boracay Rum 60 – Taha 16, Bandaying 11, Acibar 9, Santos 7, Ilagan 7, Siruma 4, Rosopa 2, Cabrera 2, Sabellina 2, Tolentino 0, Viernes 0, Eguilos 0, Foronda 0.
Quarterscores: 20-15; 48-25; 65-36; 84-60