PBA: Balanced NLEX overcomes Alaska

Camille B. Naredo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 02 2021 04:17 PM | Updated as of Sep 02 2021 04:56 PM

Kevin Alas shone for the NLEX Road Warriors in a 10-point win against Alaska. PBA Media Bureau.
Kevin Alas shone for the NLEX Road Warriors in a 10-point win against Alaska. PBA Media Bureau.

(UPDATED) Four players scored in double figures, as the NLEX Road Warriors battled past the Alaska Aces, 84-74, for their third win in the 2021 PBA Philippine Cup.

In what was their first game without star guard Kiefer Ravena, the Road Warriors recovered from a 10-point deficit and made crucial plays down the stretch to hold off the Aces, Thursday at the Don Honorio Ventura State University Gym in Bacolor, Pampanga.

Kevin Alas led the way for NLEX with 17 points and seven rebounds, while veteran JR Quinahan had 18 points. Kenneth Ighalo came up big in the fourth quarter, where he scored 10 of his 15 points; Jericho Cruz also contributed 15 points, four rebounds, and four steals.

"'Yung mga players na 'di nakakalaro sa previous games, they stepped up today," said Alas. "Malaking bagay 'yun, kasi 'di pwedeng isa o dalawang tao lang ang aasahan sa team. It's a collective effort for the whole team."

The Aces were in control of the low-scoring affair in the third quarter, where they built a 10-point lead off an Abu Tratter layup that made it 52-42. It was Alas who ignited the NLEX rally, scoring four points in an 11-0 run that put the lead back in their favor, 53-52. 

It was a nip-and-tuck game from there, but Ighalo came through in the payoff period as he converted the layup that forced a 64-all deadlock, then hit a huge three-pointer with under eight minutes to go that put NLEX ahead for good, 67-66.

Cruz and Quinahan made big baskets down the stretch, and the NLEX defense held Alaska without a field goal in the final four minutes and 29 seconds of the contest. 

It was an auspicious start for NLEX as they are prepared to play the rest of the elimination round without Ravena, who is currently in Japan to attend to some requirements from his B.League team. 

"We cannot step into the shoes of Kiefer if we're just looking for one or two guys," said Guiao, whose team improved to 3-2 in the conference. "We have to do it by committee."

Maverick Ahanmisi had 17 points, and Mike DiGregorio added 16 markers for the Aces, who dropped to 2-4. No other Alaska player reached double-digits, as the team shot just 32.5% from the field. Moreover, the Aces missed 10 of their 21 free throws and gave up 23 points from their 19 turnovers in the game.