Walker scores 39 to power NLEX over Mahindra

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Henry Walker of the NLEX Road Warriors fires a shot against James White of the Mahindra Enforcers during a PBA Governor’s Cup game at the Araneta Coliseum on Wednesday. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Henry Walker of the NLEX Road Warriors fires a shot against James White of the Mahindra Enforcers during a PBA Governor’s Cup game at the Araneta Coliseum on Wednesday. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Import Henry Walker stepped up to foil Mahindra’s late comeback allowing Northern Luzon Expressway (NLEX) to escape with an 82-81 win in the Philippine Basketball Association Season 41 Governors’ Cup at the Araneta Coliseum on Wednesday.

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Walker finished with 39 points and 13 rebounds. The 17 points he notched in the final canto helped the Road Warriors improve their win-loss record to 3-3.

NLEX coach Boyet Fernandez praised the team’s solid defense particularly in the last quarter that prevented Mahindra from scoring until the last minute mark. “I credit this win to our strong defense, we made three good stops in the last three minutes,” he said.

“I’m hoping they will stick with each other and I hope this will help us on our back-to-back games against Meralco and Phoenix Petroleum,” Fernandez said during the postgame news conference. “We have to be ready every game, it’s just a matter of finishing.”

Guard Jonas Villanueva contributed nine points and three assists while veteran Paul Asi Taulava had eight points and 12 rebounds also for the Road Warriors.

Niño “KG” Canaleta led the Enforcers with 23 points including five treys while Mike DiGregorio had 11 points.

The Road Warriors grabbed more rebounds (49-48), steals (8-1) and second chance points (13-4) than the Enforcers.

Mahindra, after back-to-back losses, is now sharing the third spot with Barangay Ginebra that is also carrying a 4-2 win-loss record.

The Road Warriors, through a strong first quarter game, enjoyed a 24-17 lead at the start of the second period. They also dominated the next period, 36-30.

NLEX further stretched their advantage, 47-36, highlighted by Jonas Villanueva’s three-point shot midway in the third frame. But Mahindra initiated a 12-0 blast capped by Canaleta’s five straight points to narrow the gap, 59-60, after the third quarter.

The Enforcers started the final canto with a 12-6 run highlighted by Nards Pinto’s trey that allowed Mahindra to snatch the advantage, 71-66.

Lagging behind, 71-79, in the last four minutes, the Road Warriors rode on Walker’s eight-point output to regain the lead, 82-79. Mahindra’s import James White went 2-of-2 in the foul line to narrow the deficit, 81-82, with only 1:40 left in the game.

A series of turnovers in the last two-minute mark gave Mahindra opportunity to seize the win with less than 10 seconds left. But White missed a shot that allowed NLEX to escape with a narrow victory.

Combo guard Kevin Alas stole the ball from White and passed it to Walker as the final buzzer sounded.

“Kevin did a good job in following White,” said Fernandez.

Meanwhile, Rain or Shine coach Yeng Guiao said he doesn’t regret criticizing the officiating of referees that resulted in him being ejected during a game against Alaska on Saturday at the Araneta Coliseum.

Guiao was slapped with a P22,000 fine while his player Beau Belga was also fined P5,000 for committing a flagrant foul during that game.

“I do not regret what I’ve done. Sometimes you have to do what you need to do. Sometimes you need to criticize them for the betterment of the league,” Guiao told The Manila Times in a phone interview. “We just have to move on. Yeah, I will pay the fines.”

Rain or Shine, with a 3-2 win-loss record, will battle Barangay Ginebra on Sunday at the Araneta Coliseum.

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