BLACKWATER achieved a milestone of sort last night as it went back in business in the PBA Philippine Cup.
The Elite beat the NLEX Road Warriors for the first time since their entry into the pro league in 2014 — and in a dominating fashion at that — 96-85, and got back into the groove after back-to-back losses at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The Elite dominated the Road Warriors from start to finish and drew 18 points fronArt Dela Cruz, 16 from Kyle Pascual and13 from Ronjay Buenafe as they picked up their third win in five outings in the kickoff conference.
The Road Warriors tumbled to their third loss in four games.
Blackwater welcomed the victory although coach Leo Isaac acknowledged the fact that NLEX played without most of its key players, including Asi Taulava, Alfonso Gotladera, and Enrico Villanueva.
“It just so happened that NLEX is lacking key players, although we did prepare well for this game considering the last 2 setbacks that we had especially against Rain or Shine,” said Isaac.
“Hopefully we can continue on our victorious momentum... one player cannot win the game for the whole team. It has to be a total team effort,” added Isaac.
Although they controlled the game most of the way, the Elite were at their best in the fourth period when they posted an 87-72 lead after an 8-to-nothing salvo.
The Road Warriors came no closer than at 92-83 on Mac Baracael’s basket, but Pascual and Pinto connected with a basket each as the Elite sealed the win, 96-83, less than 30 seconds left.
The Elite, behind the guns of Ronjay Buenafe, Art dela Cruz, Raymond Aguilar and James Sena, kept the lead most of the way in the first two quarters as they outshone NLEX’s gunners in Carlo Lastimosa, Sean Anthony, Raul Soyud and Mac Baracael.
It was ironic though the two teams were almost even in the statistics.
The Elite, who took the first half 47-41, converted 19 of their 44 attempts which was a little bit better than the Road Warriors’ 18-of-42 field goals. Even in rebounds, the two teams were not that far from each other, with Blackwater having 25 to NLEX’s 23.
The Road Warriors got more assists than the Elite, 12-10, while the two teams had 11 turnovers each.
The Elite nevertheless got to build a 38-31 lead late in the second period which they padded to 45-36 on Reil Cervantes’ triple with 1:150 left in the same period. Mac Baracael came through with a triple whiel Eric Camson translated an alley oop pass as NLEX moved within 45-41, before Nard Pinto improved Blackwater’s lead at the half at 47-41.
Blackwater (96) — Dela Cruz 18, Pascual 16, Buenafe 13, Sena 11, Belo 9, Aguilar 8, Cervantes 7, Pinto 6, Ababou 4, Gamalinda 2, Miranda 2, Sumang 0.
NLEX (85) — Lastimosa 23, Baracael 16, Soyud 9, Anthony 8, Camson 6, Guinto 6, Khobuntin 5, Alas 4, Monfort 4, Rios 2, Villanueva J. 2.
Quarterscores: 24-18, 47-41, 77-64, 96-85.