By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
THE HIGHLY improved NLEX Road Warriors eye solo leadership in the ongoing Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Governors’ Cup when they take the floor today against the TNT KaTropa in the 7 p.m. main game at the Ynares Center in Antipolo City.
Currently joint first place with the Barangay Ginebra San Miguel Kings at 7-2, the Road Warriors, tailenders in the previous PBA conferences, shoot for the top spot and fortify their push for a top two finish in the season-ending tournament of the local pro league.
The Yeng Guiao-coached Road Warriors enter the contest on a two-game winning streak, beating the San Miguel Beermen and GlobalPort Batang Pier in that order.
Import Aaron Fuller has been leading the way for NLEX with numbers of 24.7 points, 19 rebounds, 1.8 blocks and 1.7 steals in 39 minutes on the floor.
The team has also been getting solid contributions from the likes of Kevin Alas, Larry Fonacier, Alex Mallari, Cyrus Baguio, JR Quiñahan and Juami Tiongson, allowing the Road Warriors to have a multi-pronged attack.
In their last victory over GlobalPort on Sept. 3, NLEX showed much balance that proved to be too much for the Batang Pier.
At least six players scored in double digits in their 109-99 win led by Mr. Fuller’s 33 points while Mr. Tiongson had 21 points, boosted by five triples.
Messrs. Quiñahan, Alas, Baguio and Mallari, meanwhile, finished with 18, 12, 10 and eight points, respectively.
Experiencing a sea change in the PBA Governors’ Cup, the significance of it is not lost to the Road Warriors and something they hope to build on moving forward in the tournament.
“We have seven wins. I think we need eight to make it among the top four. We have hard games coming up against TNT and Star [Hotshots] so if we get one of those our chances are high of making it to the top four at the very least,” said Mr. Guiao after their win even as he said they were to use the long break they had to recharge and prepare themselves for their late push in the elimination round.
TOP FOUR BID
Also out to propel their top four bid are the KaTropa (5-3), who were victorious last time around over the Meralco Bolts, 113-107.
Glen Rice, Jr. and Jayson Castro took charge for TNT in the tough win, finishing with 32 and 27 points, respectively, with the former adding 11 rebounds and two blocks.
Veteran Kelly Williams also had a double-double of 16 points and 14 rebounds.
Incidentally, the game wound up to be the last one for long-time TNT forward Ranidel de Ocampo after he was traded on Monday to the Bolts in a three-way deal involving the Phoenix Petroleum Fuel Masters.
In said deal, Mr. De Ocampo was first traded to Phoenix for up-and-coming big man Norbert Torres and a 2017 first-round pick before being shipped to Meralco for Justin Chua and the Bolts’ 2017 first-round pick.
Mr. Chua was then traded by Phoenix to TNT for a second-round pick in the 2019 draft.
In his last game in a TNT uniform, Mr. De Ocampo, who helped the franchise to six PBA titles, had six points, three rebounds, two blocks and an assist and a steal.
In the first game at 4:15 p.m., meanwhile, the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters (4-3) battle Phoenix (2-7).