Henry Bill Walker led the Northern Luzon Expressway (NLEX) Road Warriors to a 96-90 victory over the Blackwater Elite on Saturday in the Philippine Basketball Association Season 41 Governors’ Cup at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
Walker posted 24 of his career-high 44 points output in the first period in addition to six rebounds and two assists. Kevin Alas and Mac Baracael contributed 12 points apiece to NLEX’s first win this season.
“We’ve got to win and the point doesn’t really matter, I do a lot of stuff,” Walker, who shot 15-of-25 in the field highlighted by six triples, told The Manila Times. “In my next game, they won’t allow me [to score]so I need to do something else.”
Walker responded to Blackwater’s fourth quarter rally by scoring 12 points in the payoff period to give NLEX a comfortable buffer until the end of the game.
“It’s a different competitive league now, everything changed,” Walker said.
With Walker’s huge first quarter output, the Road Warriors were able to establish a 31-16 lead at the start of the second canto. Baracael, who did the damage on Blackwater’s defense, scored seven points to bring the Road Warriors’ double-digit lead to 53-39 at the half time.
Blackwater’s Eric Dawson stepped up to reduce the deficit, 68-78, after the third quarter. The Elite managed to close the gap to within just six points in the final two minutes of the game but the Road Warriors proved to be the better team at the end of the match.
“We started really strong in the first quarter. I told my players we have to start strong and match their intensity,” NLEX coach Boyet Fernandez told reporters during the postgame news conference. “I really appreciate the way Henry [Walker] played this game.”
Lebanese Akl Rodrigue, who was still nursing a strained calf, was scoreless in his debut game with NLEX while veteran point guard Jonas Villanueva finished with 11 points, five rebounds and four assists.
“We made some bad decisions, we’re a new team in terms of personnel,” added Fernandez. “Last week, he [Rodrigue] had a strain in his calf. I really have to give him a bit more time. Kevin [Alas] did a good job today. We have to condition our Asian import and give him little bit of time [to recover].”
NLEX recorded more three-pointers (14-2), more rebounds (45-42) and more assists (18-14) than Blackwater.
Import Eric Dawson led Blackwater with 27 points, 17 rebounds and four blocks while Carlo Lastimosa and Mike Cortez contributed 16 and 14 points, respectively.
Before the game started, a simple ceremony was held to retire the No. 11 jersey of Blackwater player Gilbert Bulawan who passed away July 3 at the age of 29 because of heart disease.
“It was tough. It [Bulawan’s death] took its toll on us the day he died and after he was cremated, we’re all tired. It was clear that we have to deal with that for seven days. Maybe it affected our game but we have to accept that Gilbert is now resting in peace. We have to move on with whatever business we have in the PBA now,” said Blackwater head coach Leo Isaac.
In the second game, Barangay Ginebra beat Globalport 93-81.