by Jonas Terrado
Game Today (Cuneta Astrodome)
6:30 p.m. – San Miguel vs Ginebra
(San Miguel leads series 3-1)
The NLEX Road Warriors drew key contributions from almost everyone coach Yeng Guiao inserted last night and downed the Magnolia Hotshots Pambansang Manok, 91-79, to tie their best-of-seven PBA Philippine Cup semifinal series at 2-2 at the Mall of Asia Arena.
JR Quinahan sparked a decisive run to start the third quarter, Kevin Alas showcased some acrobatic shots to maintain the lead, veterans Cyrus Baguio made his presence felt before Kiefer Ravena closed it out with tough jumpers down the stretch that completed the Road Warriors’ compelling win after losing back-to-back games.
Ravena scored 11 of his 20 points in the final quarter, Quinahan had 14 points, Alas added 13 while Fonacier and Baguio combined for 19 as NLEX reduced the series to a best-of-three, this time sustaining the lead after coming up short in Wednesday’s 106-99 loss at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Game 5 is set tomorrow night at the Ynares Center in Antipolo City, the winner gaining a 3-2 lead and edging closer to a finals berth against either defending champion San Miguel Beer or Barangay Ginebra San Miguel.
San Miguel, with a 3-1 lead, goes for the clincher today at the Cuneta Astrodome, but is wary of Ginebra’s capability of erasing such deficit.
Guiao was glad the Road Warriors avoided the same situation Ginebra is currently dealing with.
“A 1-3 win-loss record (in the series) would practically be a foregone conclusion,” said Guiao. “Mahirap makabalik pag down ka ng 1-3, so we felt that urgency and the boys stepped up.”
Guiao later added that taking Game 4 was a “real morale victory,” believing that a longer series may work to NLEX’s advantage against a Magnolia team dealing with injuries, including a season-ending ACL to Marc Pingris.
Ian Sangalang had 15 points and 14 rebounds but he and the rest of the Hotshots encountered struggles in the second half that began when they allowed NLEX to score 14 straight points with Quinahan making five and Fonacier completing the stretch to make the score 55-39, less than eight minutes remaining in the third. The Road Warriors held a 41-39 halftime lead prior to the run.
Magnolia tried multiple times to close in on NLEX but Fonacier unveiled a triple for 78-62, 7:39 in the fourth. Ravena eventually put on a show late by making the team’s final seven points.
NLEX 91 – Ravena 20, Quiñahan 14, Alas 13, Fonacier 10, Baguio 9, Soyud 9, Rios 5, Tiongson 5, Mallari 4, Al-Hussaini 2, Miranda 0, Taulava 0.
MAGNOLIA 79 – Sangalang 15, Barroca 11, Lee 11, Jalalon 10, Dela Rosa 9, Ramos 9, Simon 6, Reavis 4, Gamalinda 2, Pascual 2, Brondial 0, Herndon 0, Melton 0, Mendoza 0.
Quarters: 25-20; 41-39; 69-59; 91-79.