NLEX equaled its best start in franchise history after pulling away starting late in the third quarter to beat Terrafirma, 116-86, Saturday, Dec. 18 in the PBA Governors’ Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Import KJ McDaniels scored 34 points on 11-of-18 shooting with 13 rebounds, four assists, three steals and three blocks as he led the Road Warriors to another victory that stretched their unbeaten start to four games in the season-ending conference.
His buzzer-beating three to end the third quarter gave NLEX a 77-66 lead, setting the stage for the lopsided result which matched the 4-0 record the team had in the 2017 Governors’ Cup.
But coach Yeng Guiao said there’s still no reason for him to feel a sense of comfort.
“I’m a little bit cautious,” Guiao said. “Medyo cautious optimism pa din kami and I don’t think the other teams are ready as they should be. May mga teams pa dyan na di pa nakahanda.
“So it’s a good sign, but we’re not looking at ourselves like we’re in there and we’re contending. We’re just trying to get better every day. That’s the mentality,” added Guiao.
Kevin Alas was also impressive for NLEX, finishing with 20 points, two rebounds and three assists while rookie Calvin Oftana added 14 points and six rebounds for the Road Warriors.
The Road Warriors pushed their lead even further, allowing Guiao to insert veteran Asi Taulava in the dying minutes.
Taulava, who moved past Abet Guidaben for second on the all-time list by playing his 22nd season, immediately hit a three-point shot with 1:54 left for 111-83, triggering wild celebrations from the NLEX bench.
On the other side, Terrafirma dropped two straight to go 1-3 in the tournament. The Dyip previously lost 114-87 to the Magnolia Pambansang Manok Hotshots last Wednesday.
Worse, the Dyip also saw new acquisition Alex Cabagnot suffer an Achilles injury in the third period.
Import Antonio Hester posted 27 points and 11 rebounds for Terrafirma.
NLEX 116 — McDaniels 34, Alas 20, Oftana 14, Rosales 10, Trollano 9, Quinahan 8, Paniamogan 5, Semerad 4, Magat 4, Galanza 3, Taulava 3, Cruz 2, Ighalo 0.
TERRAFIRMA 86 — Hester 27, Tiongson 15, Adams 7, Pascual 7, Batiller 7, Ganuelas-Rosser 7, Cabagnot 5, Ramos 5, Melton 3, Camson 3, Calvo 0, Gabayni 0, Balagasay 0.
Quarters: 23-20, 47-47, 77-66, 116-86.