MANILA, Philippines – Rookie guard Kiefer Ravena took over in crunch time to power the NLEX Road Warriors past the Alaska Aces, 105-99, in Game 1 of their best-of-3 series in the PBA Philippine Cup quarterfinals on Monday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
The No. 2 overall pick in the 2017 PBA Draft assisted on Michael Miranda's go-ahead shot, scored an insurance bucket, then iced the game from the free throw line to help the sixth-seeded Road Warriors draw first blood against the No. 3 Aces.
He finished with 25 points on 9-of-14 shooting while adding eight assists. Larry Fonacier added 18 points, including a crucial four-point play with 2:40 to go that tied the game at 96 and set up Ravena's end-game heroics. Kevin Alas, meanwhile, had 17 points.
"We're just relieved that Game 1 is over," said coach Yeng Guiao, who now has a 5-0 record against Alaska since last season. "The good news is we won this one, but the bad news is we have to go through this again on Wednesday."
"This series is not over," he warned. "Alaska has been through a lot of difficult situations, and they've come out of those situations pretty good."
NLEX led by as much as 11 points, but their advantage evaporated in the fourth quarter as Vic Manuel spearheaded Alaska's charge. The Aces also got quality minutes from Marion Magat, who scored four points in the final period including the putback that made it 84-79 with 9 minutes to go.
The Aces managed to maintain that advantage even as Ravena began to wax hot from beyond the arc. A hook shot by Sonny Thoss made it a four-point game, 96-92, with just 2:52 to go.
But off an Alaska turnover, Alas found Fonacier wide open from beyond the arc and the veteran calmly drilled the triple, even as Calvin Abueva bum-rushed him on defense. "The Beast" was whistled for the foul, and Fonacier completed the four-point play to tie the game with 2:40 left and turn the momentum in NLEX's favor.
"The biggest play of the game is Larry's four-point play," said Guiao. "That's the crucial point in the game where we felt we could have a chance to win it."
NLEX dodged several bullets in the next few possessions, as Abueva, Chris Banchero, and Thoss all missed shots at the rim that could have pushed Alaska back ahead. NLEX made them pay when Ravena assisted on Miranda's go-ahead lay-up with 22.7 seconds left for a 98-96 count.
Miranda was also fouled by Jvee Casio in the play, but he could not make the bonus free throw. A jump ball situation ensued, and Ravena was able to gain control of the ball before going all the way for the bucket that made it a four-point game, 100-96, with just 18.8 seconds to go.
Alaska last threatened with 7.8 seconds left, off a triple by Simon Enciso. But free throws by Ravena and Alas iced the game for NLEX.
Banchero led Alaska with 20 points, while Abueva had 18 points and 13 rebounds. The Aces shot only 37% from the field and allowed NLEX to make 54% of their attempts.
But Alaska made up for their poor shooting by repeatedly going to the line. They took 44 free throws, making 30 of them.
"There is just too many free throws given to the other side," Guiao said after the game. "We will check with the (PBA) Office if it's really that many. Ako, medyo nag-aalangan ako kung lahat noon ay may foul."
Game 2 of the series is on Wednesday at the Araneta Coliseum.
NLEX 105 - Ravena 25, Fonacier 18, Alas 17, Quiñahan 12, Miranda 10, Baguio 8, Al-Hussaini 4, Taulava 4, Soyud 4, Tiongson 3, Mallari 0, Gotladera 0.
ALASKA 99 - Banchero 20, Abueva 18, Enciso 16, Manuel 13, Thoss 11, Casio 8, Magat 4, Teng 4, Racal 4, Baclao 1, Exciminiano 0, Cruz 0.
Quarter scores: 24-22, 50-40, 74-72, 105-99
(For more sports coverage, visit the ABS-CBN Sports website.)