NLEX created a big noise as it wrapped up a forgettable stint in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup with an 87-85 spanking of Phoenix before a lean Friday crowd at the Cuneta Astrodome.
The Road Warriors entered the last 63 seconds enjoying what had looked like a safe 83-75 lead, but their offense went in tatters in the face of the Fuel Masters’ pressure defense.
Worse, coach Yeng Guiao incurred consecutive technical and was eventually ejected with still 42 seconds left, and with NLEX protecting an 84-80 lead.
"Kahit papano, may baon kaming panalo. We survived a badly-officiated game," said Guaio.
The Fuel Masters even threatened at 86-85 on RJ Jazul’s triple with 6.2 seconds, before Jericho Cruz, who was fouled as he secured the rebound following Olu Ashaolu’s muffed freethrows, sank a freethrow for what stood in the final tally.
The Road Warriors, who were coming off a 109-105 loss at the hands of San Miguel Beer, finished their elimination stint with a 3-8 card.
If there was any consolation, the Road Warriors at least bade goobye from the mid-season conference on a bright note. They also stalled the Fuel Masters’ march to the playoff round after dealing them their fifth loss in nine outings.
Olu Ashaolu cut loose with 17 points, 17 rebounds and five assists for the Road Warriors who survived Phoenix’s onslaught despite only one local – Kenneth Ighalo – managed to complement Ashaolu in offense.
The Road Warriors built a 45-32 lead after two quarters, but sputtered a little bit in the third where they allowed the Fuel Masters to come within 60-54, before regaining their touch to remain in control after three quarters, 65-54.
NLEX (87) - Ashaolu 17, Ighalo 14, Quinahan 9, Paniamogan 9, Erram 7, Cruz 6, Lao 5, Tiongson 5, Fonacier 5, Taulava 4, Soyud 4, Varilla 2, Baguio 0, Galanza 0.
Phoenix (85) - Jazul 20, Wright 16, Mallari 13, Howell 11, Intal 6, Marcelo 6, Perkins 2, Napoles 0, Wilson 0, Guevarra 0, Gamboa 0.
Quarterscores: 21-11, 45-32, 65-54, 87-85.