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Perfect start for NLEX

Clutch 3 helps Road Warriors escape with Game 1 victory over Hotshots
By: - Reporter / @cedelfptINQ
/ 05:45 AM March 11, 2018

NLEX may be playing in its first PBA semifinals but at least it can say it has a perfect Final Four record so far. One game, one win, 1-0 lead.

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Alex Mallari tormented his former team with the go-ahead three-pointer while Kiefer Ravena—whose pass set up that triple—pulled down a key rebound and buried two cushion charities as the Road Warriors survived a wild endgame for an 88-87 victory over Magnolia in Game 1 of their Philippine Cup semifinal showdown Saturday at Smart Araneta Coliseum.

“Like I said before the game, we’re just in this for the ride; we’re enjoying our adventure,” said NLEX coach Yeng Guiao after the match, which was the first semifinal game in the Road Warriors’ franchise history. “We’re like gatecrashers here in the semis. But we seem to be having more fun than the ones invited.”

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Meanwhile, San Miguel Beer coach Leo Austria knows he will need even more than an already dominant Game 1 display when the Beermen shoot for a 2-0 lead against Barangay Ginebra on Sunday at Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Even with June Mar Fajardo held to a conference low nine points, the Beermen dominated the Gin Kings, 102-90, as Arwind Santos, Marcio Lassiter and Von Pessumal sizzled from beyond the arc in a testament to San Miguel’s incredible talent.

“We can’t rest on our laurels,” said Austria, who is looking to steer the Beermen to a fourth straight All Filipino title. “We’re unfortunate that Ginebra was tired after that series against Rain or Shine, but I’m sure they’ll come back stronger.”

Magnolia could pay an even bigger price for the loss as power forward Marc Pingris had to leave the game due to an injury that makes him doubtful for Game 2, which is set on Monday night at Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.

Pingris had to be stretchered off with 4:39 remaining and the Hotshots ahead, 76-73.

Cyrus Baguio led the way for the Road Warriors with 17 points, while Ravena continued to play like a battle-tested veteran in crunch time on top of finishing with 16 points, including two foul shots with 6.6 seconds remaining.

The loss put to waste a stellar effort from Ian Sangalang, whose second consecutive basket with 1:13 remaining gave the Hotshots an 84-83 lead.

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TAGS: Alex Mallari, Kiefer Ravena, NLEX Road Warriors, PBA, PBA semifinals, Philippine Cup semifinal, Sports
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