The NLEX Road Warriors want nothing more than to bury their struggles of 2016 in the past. In the PBA’s first out of town game for the new year, the Road Warriors finally ended their five-game losing skid as they scored an important 110-98 victory over the TNT Katropa in Angeles City, Pampanga.
Carlo Lastimosa made sure that the homecoming of head coach Yeng Guiao, who used to represent the city in Congress, would be a good one. The high-scoring guard finished with 22 points in the game, 17 of these coming in the second half of play to help NLEX score only their second victory in the 2017 OPPO PBA Philippine Cup.
It was a tightly contested ball game that featured 12 ties and 11 lead changes as it was an important one for both squads. For NLEX, it was a chance to make it out of the cellar and keep the possibility of a late run to the playoffs alive. For TNT, it could have been their shot to take the solo second just behind the San Miguel Beermen.
NLEX played with a sense of urgency, especially in the end game, because they knew their playoff hopes would be slim to none if they suffered another setback.
In the fourth quarter, NLEX banked on their defense as they limited the league’s best offense to only 17 points.
TNT was up by one point, 94-93, halfway through the final quarter after a couple of free throws from Jayson Castro. However, the Road Warriors quickly responded with a 5-0 blast to claim the lead for good.
Kelly Williams was whistled for a crucial unsportsmanlike foul on Sean Anthony with 2:49 remaining in the game which allowed NLEX to extend their lead to 8 points, 104-96, after a couple of free throws and a Lastimosa basket.
The KaTropa tried to mount a late rally but three-point attempts from Larry Fonacier, Troy Rosario, Moala Tautaa, and Castro failed to bear fruit.
Anthony struggled from the field in the contest but made nine free throws to finish with 13 points and 13 rebounds. Kevin Alas and Eric Camson added 12 points apiece while Bradwyn Guinto chipped in 11 markers.
All of the 14 players that saw action for NLEX scored at least 2 points in the game, reminiscent of Guiao’s former team. The Road Warriors managed to score a victory even if they only made 28 of their 50 free throw attempts because TNT turned the ball over 23 times.
Castro led the Katropa with 17 points, 5 rebounds, and 7 assists as he continued to play off the bench while Tautuaa and Kris Rosales added 15 points apiece. They missed the presence of Ranidel De Ocampo who rolled his ankle in the second quarter and sat the rest of the contest.
NLEX 110 – Lastimosa 22, Anthony 13, Alas 12, Camson 12, Guinto 11, J. Villanueva 7, E. Villanueva 7, Rios 6, Baracael 5, Lanete 4, Taulava 3, Monfort 3, Khobuntin 3, Gotladera 2.
TNT 98 – Castro 17, Tautuaa 15, Rosales 15, Fonacier 9, Reyes 7, Rosario 7, De Ocampo 7, Williams 6, Rosser 6, Carey 5, Seigle 4, Golla 0, Pogoy 0, Tamsi 0.
Quarters: 24-26, 52-52, 85-81, 110-98