The NLEX Road Warriors defeated the Ginebra Gin Kings, 114-112, in overtime to notch their first win in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Commissioner’s Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum on Friday.
Ginebra initially emerged with a slim edge over NLEX after the first 12 minutes of play, 22-21.
The Kings registered 16 assists in the first half, plus 29 points as they began to pull away from NLEX before the break.
The Road Warriors came back to life with less than two minutes remaining in the third period to grab the lead, 73-69, following two converted free throws by Sean Anthony and a trey by Jonas Villanueva.
Gin Kings reinforcement Othyus Jeffers, on the other hand, refused to end the quarter without a fight as his two shots from the charity stripe before the final canto brought the score to 73-all.
Mark Caguioa failed to sink his potential game-winning shot as the regulation ended with the score at 97-all.
NLEX relied on the prowess of import Al Thornton to bounce back in the extra five minutes of play and seal their first win in this season’s Commissioner’s Cup.
Thornton finished with 50 points and seven rebounds for NLEX while forward Sean Anthony contributed 15 markers and 11 boards.
NLEX guard Kevin Alas also stepped up posting 21 points and three rebounds.
“Luckily, we got this first win and hopefully we get a good start into the conference,” NLEX head coach Boyet Fernandez said during the post-match interview.
He stressed that the late-game rally was made possible through the effort of Thornton and his players who stepped up toward the end game.
“No words can describe that guy [Thornton]. He bailed us out tonight. Credit to my players who played in the second half,” he said.
Meanwhile, Niño Canaleta powered the Mahindra Enforcers past the GlobalPort Batang Pier, 111-98, to start of their campaign in the Commissioner’s Cup on a high note.
Canaleta posted a total of 20 points on a 66.67 shooting percentage in addition to six rebounds.
Mahindra started with a strong offensive through the frontcourt tandem of Canaleta and import Augustus Gilchrist resulting in a 31-23 lead at the end of the first quarter.
The Enforcers continued to destroy the defense of the Batang Pier through Canaleta’s 12-point performance in the second quarter. Mahindra extended their lead to 13 points going into the break.
GlobalPort star guard Terrence Romeo took the floor in the third period posting 16 points narrowing the gap, 82-76, ahead of the final 12 minutes of play.
Despite Romeo’s effort, Mahindra prevailed to book their first win in this year’s Commisioner’s Cup.
“Before this conference, we worked on our consistency. Everybody stepped up [this game]. Everybody wants to prove something. It’s within the system,” Mahindra assistant coach Chito Victolero said.
He added that defense was a major concern for them during the break before the start of the conference.
“Its about the defense. That is what we focused on during training. We need to control the perimeter.”