The Kia team that was expected to be trampled over in the PBA Philippine Cup served notice on Wednesday it wasn’t backing down from any challenge.
Too bad its upset-conscious ways couldn’t translate to a victory against NLEX.
Kiefer Ravena scored 18 points and dished out 12 assists to lead 7 NLEX players in double-figure scoring, as the Road Warriors defeated Kia 119-115 at San Juan Arena.
The outcome remained a tossup until the final minute or so, when Larry Fonacier completed a 4-point play to give NLEX a 117-113 lead.
After JR Reyes cut the deficit to two with a tough baseline jumper, Kia saw Ravena miss a 3-point attempt, but couldn’t get a clean shot off when it got back possession.
Two free throws by JR Quiñahan sealed the win for NLEX.
Kevin Alas and Michael Miranda each scored 14 points off the bench. Fonacier added 12 points, including 3 triples, while Ravena contributed 7 rebounds and shot 7 of 11 from the field.
Kia had been maligned for trading away the No. 1 pick to San Miguel Beer for bench players. It was those discards, and then some, who helped coach Chris Gavina and crew keep in step with NLEX and nearly pull out a shocker.
Rashawn McCarthy, who got the start, something he never did for San Miguel, finished with 14 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists, while Reyes, who played in the shadows of June Mar Fajardo and Arwind Santos, got 12 points and 12 rebounds. Eight of Reyes’ points came in the fourth, 6 inside the last 2 minutes.
Eric Camson led Kia with 24 points and 9 rebounds.
As if on a mission to prove its detractors wrong, Kia stormed out of the gates, scoring 40 first-quarter points behind Camson’s red-hot 15 points.
Kia led by as many as 13 on several instances and hung 92 points after 3 quarters, its per-game average last season.
When NLEX made it a game, Gavina’s team didn’t buckle, engaging the Road Warriors in a see-saw battle.
On a night when Kia shot nearly 50% from the field, NLEX finally got the Picanto to miss.
After Kia went up 106-102 on Bong Galanza’s basket with less than 6 minutes to go, the Road Warriors limited Kia to without a field goal in a 4-minute stretch to lead 113-111.
Reyes stopped the drought with a layup to tie the score, before Fonacier’s critical 4-point play.
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