Arnett Moultrie issued a double-double to tow NLEX to a gutsy win over winless Blackwater. (PBA Media Bureau)
QUEZON CITY— No Kiefer Ravena, no worries for NLEX.
The Road Warriors used a strong fourth-quarter wind-up to repulse Blackwater, 93-89, in the curtain-raiser of Wednesday’s PBA Commissioner’s Cup action at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Anchored on import Arnett Moultrie fashioned out the win, its second in six matches, in the first game without rookie guard Kiefer Ravena, who is serving his 18-month ban due to doping violation.
After a strong first half, NLEX found themselves down by nine, 77-86, after back-to-back baskets by Blackwater’s Mike DiGregorio on the 5:23 mark of the final quarter. Moultrie then instigated a 13-0 run before Alex Mallari’s three-pointer made it a 90-86 cushion with 1:27 remaining.
Mallari iced the game with a three-point play off Paul Zamar with 9.7 ticks left.
“We felt really bad as a team with the situation of Kiefer. Everybody knows he is a key player in our team and his suspension has a profound effect on everyone but our focus is now moving forward or moving on without Kiefer for the meantime and just keeping ourselves in the race,” said coach Yeng Guiao in the post-game interview.
The fiery mentor also praised his import Moultrie, who finished with a double-double of 26 points, 16 rebounds and five assists in over 35 minutes of action.
“Actually, our import (Moultrie) played one bad game and that is our last game before this game. We thought it was kind of out of character but nakabawi ngayon, maganda pagkakabawi niya. He is going to do a lot more. He has to work harder to keep us afloat.”
Juami Tiongson and Alex Mallari backstopped Moultrie with 10 markers apiece, while Jansen Rios and Emman Monfort picked up the void left by Ravena with eight and five markers in that order
The NLEX bench outscored the Elite’s reserves 40-18.
With the loss, the Elite suffered its seventh consecutive and bowed out of playoff contention. Mike DiGregorio paced the squad with 25 points, while Allein Maliksi and JP Erram cashed in 16 and 14, respectively.
Come-backing import Henry Walker only got 12 points and 11 boards.
NLEX 93 – Moultrie 26, Tiongson 10, Mallari 10, Fonacier 9, Rios 8, Monfort 5, Baguio 5, Marcelo 5, Soyud 5, Ighalo 5, Quinahan 3, Miranda 2.
Blackwater 89 – DiGregorio 25, Maliksi 16, Erram 14, Walker 12, Cortez 4, Belo 4, Al-Hussaini 4, Sumang 3, Palma 3, Zamar 2, Jose 2, Pinto 0.
Quarterscores: 26-18; 42-40; 67-71; 93-89.