NLEX vs Meralco for last semis spot

Published October 1, 2021, 9:38 AM

by Jonas Terrado

Photo from PBA

NLEX goes for another win over favored Meralco and secure the last semifinals berth Friday, Oct. 1 in their do-or-die PBA Philippine Cup quarterfinal match at the Don Honorio Ventura State University in Bacolor, Pampanga.

Tipoff is set at 6 p.m. with the seventh-seed Road Warriors aiming to complete their upset over the No. 2 Bolts, who are keen on not putting their impressive showing in the elimination round to waste.

The winner will move on to the best-of-seven semifinals to face the Magnolia Pambansang Manok, who swept their quarterfinal affair with the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters.

The Road Warriors eked out an 81-80 victory when rookie Calvin Oftana scored a go-ahead layup with 6.1 seconds remaining, a play that came after the Bolts blew a chance to make it a three-point game when Mac Belo missed two free throws on the previous possession.

Coach Yeng Guiao, however, said his team has yet to achieve anything and will need a bigger effort to secure NLEX’s first semifinal appearance since the 2018 Philippine Cup.

Oftana is expected to play another pivotal role for NLEX, so is Tony Semerad who dropped a conference-high 24 the last time.

The performances of Kevin Alas, Jericho Cruz, JR Quinahan and vastly-improved Raul Soyud will also be crucial if the Road Warriors want to make it to the semis despite losing Kiefer Ravena due to his stint with Japanese club Shiga Lakestars.

Meralco is out to make up for the defeat and secure a second straight Philippine Cup appearance and third in a row starting in the pre-pandemic 2019 Governors’ Cup.

Belo tries to redeem himself from his late misses, Allein Maliksi hopes to remain consistent on offense while Chris Newsome will be needed to shake off the struggles that came after being placed under the league’s health and safety protocols a few weeks ago.

Veteran Reynel Hugnatan and hardworking Cliff Hodge could play a big part in the Bolts’ fate.