(Cagayan de Oro City)
5 p.m. -- Phoenix vs. Ginebra
NLEX did what four other heavyweight teams failed to do: beat Blackwater.
And returning NLEX coach Yeng Guiao couldn’t be happier.
“We did it,” said Guiao after the Road Warriors completed a surprisingly easy 124-106 win over the previously unbeaten Elite in the PBA Governor’s Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
“Matagal-tagal din kaming naghanda nung nakita namin na this team is really for real. We made sure that we were prepared for this game,” added Guiao, who made his return after his coaching stint with the PBA-backed national team in the Asian Games in Jakarta, Indonesia and the FIBA World Cup 2019 qualifiers that lasted for almost two months.
Added Guiao: “The plan was to sacrifice (Henry) Walker’s scoring. The keys to winning for Blackwater is the locals combining with Walker on offense and four to five guys in double figures. I figured we have to pick our poison. It was decided that Walker can go one-on-one but prevent him from setting up his teammates,”
Mission successful for Guiao and NLEX.
Import Aaron Fuller and Larry Fonacier finished with 24 points apiece for NLEX, which even led by 24 points, 84-60, in the third quarter before staving off a last-ditch comeback by Blackwater.
Fuller also had 20 rebounds, four assists and two steals in a solid effort that overshadowed the 16-point,13-rebound effort of Blackwater counterpart Henry Walker.
Fonacier also provided a strong presence on the offensive floor for the Road Warriors with six three-point shots against the Elite’s scrambling defense.
The win enabled NLEX to improve to 4-2 -- setting aside their ego-deflating 112-125 setback to San Miguel Beer last Sept. 1.
Blackwater dropped to second place behind new leader Phoenix, which has a 5-1 win-loss record.
Actually, NLEX had to overcome a sluggish start before taking control of the game late in the second quarter.
The Road Warriors put the game away with several long scoring splurges in the middle quarters with back-to-back triples by Fonacier, and Kenneth Ighalo giving them a commanding 81-58 lead with 5:11 left in the third period.
The closest the Elite could come from there was nine, 92-101, on Roi Sumang’s triple.
Ighalo added 18 points, six rebounds and three assists in 28 minutes for NLEX.
Sumang led Blackwater with 24 points on 8-of-15 shooting from the floor, followed by Walker and Paul Zamar with 16 points apiece.
Walker, however, struggled with only 6-of-17 shooting, including 0-of-6 from the rainbow territory.
Blackwater also played minus the ailing JP Erram.
Overall, NLEX made 20 -of-44 shooting from the three-point area for 45 percent compared to only 7-of-27 by Blackwater or 25 percent.
The Road Warriors also had more rebounds, 51-46, an d more assists, 34-16, than the Elite.
Meanwhile, former Utah Jazz mainstay Kevin Murphy is reportedly set to replace former “Best Import” awardee Arizona Reid as San Miguel import in this season-ending tournament.
In a Spin.Ph report yesterday, San Miguel reportedly decided to part ways with Reid to turn their campaign around.
San Miguel suffered a disappointing 102-110-102 loss to a badly-depleted Barangay Ginebra side last Sunday.
Reid, a two-time Best Import, struggled with only 6-of-21 shooting from the field and a 1-of-6 clip from three-point range to finish with just 13 points as San Miguel lost for the second time in three outings for an even 2-2 card.
Sources said the San Miguel coaching staff took more than an hour before emerging from the team dugout following the loss to the Gin Kings.
NLEX (124) -- Fonacier 24, Fuller 24, Ighalo 18, Miranda 9, Paniamogan 9, Galanza 8, Quinahan 8, Tiongson 6, Baguio 6, Soyud 4, Rios 4, Monfort 3, Taulava 1, Tallo 0.
Blackwater (106)-- Sumang 24, Walker 16, Zamar 16, Pinto 15, Al-Hussaini 7, Sena 6, Jose 6, Maliksi 5, Digregorio 5, Belo 4, Palma 2, Javier 0.
Quarterscores: 24-19, 55-45, 90-75, 124-106.