NLEX lived to fight for another day.
Playing with their tournament lives on the line, plenty of heroes emerged as the Road Warriors outlasted Barangay Ginebra Kings with a pulsating 120-117 victory in overtime in the 2022 PBA Commissioner’s Cup at the PhilSports Arena in Pasig City on Friday, Nov. 25.
With the imports of the respective teams basically cancelling each other out, the NLEX local crew in Don Trollano, Kevin Alas and Matt Nieto all carried the fight the Road Warriors to improve to a 5-6 record in the standings and stay in the hunt for a quarterfinals spot.
Still, it was import Earl Clark who steadied the ship in crunchtime, nailing a tough step-back jumper that sent the game to the extra period and making the game-preserving block on Jamie Malonzo’s three-point attempt in the waning seconds of overtime.
He finished with 37 points, 17 rebounds and seven assists while Trollano, who fired blanks in the first half, unloaded 20 of his 26 points in the third quarter to provide solid support to Clark.
Alas added 18 points and nine assists while Nieto was also solid with 10 points and five assists including crucial baskets late in regulation.
Despite the win, NLEX is still not assured of its spot in the playoffs as it will still need other teams ahead of it to drop their games. The loss, meanwhile, not only snapped Ginebra’s five-game win streak but also came as a blow to its twice-to-beat hopes.
All is not lost however for the Kings as they can still claim the quarterfinals bonus if it sweeps its remaining games while Magnolia drops one of its final assignments.
A searing third quarter onslaught spearheaded by Trollano allowed NLEX to build a seven point lead, 90-83, heading into the final frame. The Road Warriors kept their heads afloat for the majority of the fourth quarter before Scottie Thompson and Justin Brownlee made a last ditch rally to threaten NLEX.
An and-1 play on Brownlee’s acrobatic shot in transition even gave Ginebra the lead, 113-111, with 13 seconds left but Clark answered back with the jumper to even the count and extend the game to overtime.
Clark then opened up the extra period with a triple although Ginebra had its answers with back-to-back hits from Thompson and Aguilar. Brandon Ganuelas Rosser nailed a booming right wing triple while Paul Varilla split his charities as NLEX take the 120-117 lead.
The Kings had the chance to tie the game anew but after Malonzo’s triple was foiled, Brownlee, who recovered the loose ball, came up short in his final attempt at the buzzer.
Brownlee finished with 39 points, 11 rebounds and five assists while Thompson added 17 points and 12 rebounds.