NLEX looks to improve after tabbing early lead
MANILA, Philippines–KJ McDaniels and Calvin Oftana came through in overtime to will NLEX past NorthPort, 120-115, on Friday as the Road Warriors tabbed their second win and the early lead of the PBA Governors’ Cup.
That should have been the story out of the Ynares Sports Center in Pasig City, but young guard Robert Bolick rewrote the narrative by sending a message to a tournament powerhouse.
McDaniels and Oftana scored for all but two of the club’s 18 points in the extra period, laying waste to yet another heroic stand by new Batang Pier Arwind Santos and in turn preserving that of Kevin Alas’, whose three freebies with 1.2 seconds left in the game paved the way for the extra period at 102-all.
“KJ carried us on his shoulders throughout the fourth and in overtime, Kevin had great composure sinking those three free throws with 1.2 seconds left,” said NLEX coach Yeng Guiao. “That’s what you call handling the pressure and Kevin’s a pressure player. He can do that and he delivered those crucial points.”
As far as Bolick is concerned, however, this should be Santos’ last loss this week.
“We can’t let kuya Arwind lose to San Miguel this Sunday. He has been playing so well for us. We’re hoping to give him that victory,” said Bolick, after logging 18 points and a career-best 14 assists.
The Batang Pier take on the Beermen on Sunday at the end of a killer three-game week for them. And NorthPort hopes it will learn from its two close defeats when it faces San Miguel Beer, which dealt Santos away in a midseason trade.
“What’s good here is that the mistakes we’re making can still be corrected,” Bolick said.
NLEX swept its opening-week assignments, digging out of a frosty first half to turn back San Miguel before wringing this one out against NorthPort.
But Guiao said there are still improvements the team needs to make as the import-spiced showcase plods along.
“Rebounding for one … We’re a small team compared to San Miguel, which we played first, and compared to NorthPort, which we played today,” he said.
“We can still improve defensively. We had some lapses,” Guiao added. “I’m not really too worried about our offense with KJ around. We also have some guys who can score, so that’s not my primary concern. I’m really concerned about our rebounding and defense being consistent.”
McDaniels finished with 40 points, 15 rebounds, six assists, three blocks and two steals. His tough and-one play sealed the deal for NLEX at 118-113, with 12.5 left to play.
Alas had 21 points as Michael Miranda chipped in 13 and Oftana 10 more in the effort. Greg Slaughter led NorthPort with 22 points, while Santos had 20.