NLEX capitalized on two costly turnovers by Air 21-JRU’s Kenneth Ighalo as the Road Warriors hacked out a thrilling 91-87 comeback win over the Heavy Bombers to stay undefeated in the 2013 PBA D-League Aspirants’ Cup at the Ynares Arena in Pasig City.
RR Garcia and Ronald Pascual hit big shots down the stretch as NLEX moved to the top of the standings with their third win as many outings.
Air 21-JRU trailed 67-63 at the start of the fourth quarter but opened with a 15-0 run behind Dexter Maiquez, Khasim Mirza and Rocky Acidre to take an 11-point lead midway through the final period.
Acidre’s long distance connection at the 9:06 gave the Heavy Bombers their first taste of the lead, 68-67.
But NLEX mounted a big comeback, with a huge three-pointer by Garcia with 14 seconds remaining cutting the Heavy Bombers’ lead down to one.
An inbound pass from Ighalo intended for Mirza was then intercepted by NLEX’s lanky center Ian Sangalang. The reigning NCAA MVP fed the ball to Pascual, who completed a crucial three-point play that gave the Road Warriors the upper hand, 89-87, with 10.7 ticks left.
With the possession back to JRU, Ighalo raced down court, eluding NLEX’s defense, but John Pinto was not ready to receive the pass.
With 4.9 seconds remaining, Garcia iced the game for NLEX on two canned charities off a desperation foul from Acidre.
“It’s a lesson for all of us. I’m just happy we came out with the win today. I’m just trying to adjust a little bit because I was also containing their playing time,” said NLEX coach Boyet Fernandez.
The Road Warriors led by as much as 20 points, 39-19, midway in the second period off a basket from SMART-Gilas Cadet pool member Jake Pascual, who also paced NLEX with 17 points and ten rebounds.
“It’s a wake-up call for us and a learning experience as well. I want to give credit to JRU and Coach Vergel,” added Fernandez.
Sangalang and Garcia added 15 and 10 points respectively for the Road Warriors.
The Heavy Bombers, with coach Vergel Meneses at the helm for the first time after missing their first game, absorbed another heartbreaker similar to their 77-76 loss in their opener where they led majority of the game only to lose in the endgame.
Acidre led all scorers with 21 points with Ighalo finishing in double-double with 11 points and ten rebounds.
JRU’s next game will be on November 22 against newcomer Informatics, who is also looking for their elusive first win. NLEX’s will also be facing Informatics in their next game on November 20.
NLEX (91) — J. Pascual 17, Sangalang 15, Garcia 10, R. Pascual 9, Lanete 9, Alas 8, Camson 7, Salva 6, Long 4, Sumalinog 4, Hermida 2, Amer 0, Ganuelas 0.
Air 21-JRU (87) — Acidre 21, Mirza 19, Maiquez 14, Ighalo 11, Pinto 8, Miranda 6, Caperal 4, Villarias 2, Apinan 2, Lopez 0, Almario 0.
Quarters: 26-17, 45-33, 67-63, 91-87.