By Jonas Terrado
NLEX pulled off a historic first in its young franchise history last night with a big windup to complete a quarterfinal sweep of Alaska, 87-83, Wednesday night and advance to the semifinals of the PBA Philippine Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Michael Miranda scored five straight points before Kevin Alas’ acrobatic shot turned out to be the insurance basket that the Road Warriors needed to repeat over the Aces and secure their first semis berth since it joined the league by purchasing the Air21 Express franchise in 2014.
“Just ridiculous luck for us,” said coach Yeng Guiao, who has brought NLEX to the semis after dealing with hardships for most of his first season in charge the previous year.
The Road Warriors arranged a best-of-seven showdown with the Magnolia Hotshots Pambansang Manok which begins Saturday at the Big Dome.
Magnolia advanced to the semis after eliminating GlobalPort, 86-79, Tuesday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Down 83-80 with three minutes left, Miranda, the enforcer acquired from Phoenix in a three-way trade during the offseason, knocked down an open three before hitting two foul shots to put NLEX ahead for good.
Alas, who topscored with 18 points, later scored a double pump layup with 1:12 remaining to seal the final count as the sixth seeded Road Warriors ousted the Aces who finished the eliminations as the third best team.
JR Quinahan had 16 points and five rebounds before fouling out while rookie Kiefer Ravena, who will play in the semis in his first PBA conference, added 11 points, seven assists and two steals. Miranda, meanwhile, added 12 points.
Calvin Abueva finished with 17 points and 16 rebounds but the Aces once again lost another late lead after a potential third game loomed when a Ping Exciminiano layup made it 83-80.
Alaska would never scored another point.
NLEX 87 – Alas 18, Quiñahan 16, Miranda 12, Ravena 11, Mallari 8, Fonacier 7, Soyud 5, Tiongson 3, Ighalo 3, Al-Hussaini 2, Taulava 2, Baguio 0, Gotladera 0.
ALASKA 83 – Abueva 17, Exciminiano 12, Casio 10, Racal 10, Manuel 9, Thoss 8, Banchero 8, Baclao 4, Enciso 2, Cruz 2, Magat 1, Teng 0, J. Pascual 0.
Quarterscores: 24-23, 49-43, 68-71, 87-83.