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Going out in style

While making its exit, NLEX puts Phoenix playoff bid in peril
/ 05:05 AM July 13, 2019

It may seem funny how things have started coming together for NLEX after the Road Warriors had already been eliminated from the PBA Commissioner’s Cup.

Understandably though, Phoenix isn’t in a laughing mood.

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The Road Warriors survived a late charge by the Fuel Masters and held on to an 87-85 victory Friday night at Cuneta Astrodome in Pasay.

Long eliminated from the playoff race after winning just one of its first eight games, NLEX closed its tournament with two wins in its last three outings. And it may have lowered the curtains on Phoenix, too.

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“This is just a send-off on a winning note for us,” coach Yeng Guiao told reporters. “We’ll start preparing for the next conference. We’ll have a short break but after that, we’ll start working on our preparations.”

There was little to complain about for Guiao as far as his wards’ performance was concerned.

With Olu Ashaolu leading the way, the Road Masters raced to several double-digit spreads before fighting off Phoenix’s late rally to drop the Fuel Masters to a 4-7 record.

That leaves Phoenix’s fate in the results of the other remaining games in the tournament. The Fuel Masters drew a key break when NorthPort, on a layup by Robert Bolick with four seconds remaining, tacked a seventh loss on Meralco with a 93-92 squeaker in the second game.

The Batang Pier thus have a shot at the No. 1 spot, which will pair it with the lowest-seeded team in the quarterfinals.

So while Guiao was pleased with his wards’ showing, the national drillmaster wasn’t too happy about officiating.

“I don’t think the officiating was up to par to the effort that both teams put into this game,” he said. “The calls—they mean a lot to the teams. But it’s as if the referees don’t give as much importance to them as we do. They don’t feel what we feel. I think there’s a problem with that.”

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“At least we’ve got something to bring moving forward. We survived a badly officiated game,” added Guiao, who was thrown out for a second technical foul late in the contest.

Ashaolu led NLEX with 17 points and 17 rebounds.

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TAGS: NLEX, Olu Ashaolu, PBA Commissioner’s Cup, Phoenix
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