PBA Philippine Cup

Skid snapped: NLEX averts meltdown vs Ginebra to clinch playoff berth

Delfin Dioquino

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Skid snapped: NLEX averts meltdown vs Ginebra to clinch playoff berth

STAR. Robert Bolick in action for the NLEX Road Warriors in the 2024 PBA Philippine Cup.

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Robert Bolick and NLEX get back on track after four straight losses to clinch the No. 6 seed in the PBA Philippine Cup and avoid a precarious situation going into the playoffs

MANILA, Philippines – NLEX not only snapped a long skid but also avoided a perilous position in the PBA Philippine Cup.

Leaning on Robert Bolick, the Road Warriors ended the elimination round on a high note and nailed the No. 6 seed in the playoffs after a 76-72 win over Barangay Ginebra at the Ninoy Aquino Stadium on Sunday, May 5.

Bolick churned out 25 points, 8 rebounds, and 6 assists as NLEX got back on track after four straight losses and improved to 6-5 to set up a best-of-three quarterfinals with No. 3 seed Meralco.

A loss would have dropped the Road Warriors to a sudden death for the last playoff berth, but the team pulled through by holding the Gin Kings to their lowest scoring output of the conference.

“It is nice to get a win again. And it is against Ginebra, no less,” said NLEX head coach Frankie Lim in a mix of Filipino and English. “They played their hearts out.”

The win, though, did not come without a scare.

Bolick erupted for 13 points in the third quarter to help the Road Warriors build a 59-54 advantage, then drained a booming three-pointer with under eight minutes left that gave his side their biggest lead of the game at 71-58.

Ginebra, however, clawed its way back and unloaded a 14-2 run capped by a pair of Maverick Ahanmisi free throws to pull within 72-73 with 30 seconds remaining.

A split from the free throw line by NLEX guard Baser Amer kept the door ajar for the Gin Kings, 74-72, but the Road Warriors put the shackles on Ginebra and forced Von Pessumal to cough up a turnover during an inbound play.

Richie Rodger sealed the win by draining his foul shots.

“We should have handled our last five minutes a lot better,” said Lim. “But just the same, my guys did not give up. We locked them up. We denied all entry passes and they turned the ball over.”

Rodger finished with 11 points – the only other NLEX player in double figures – on top of 6 rebounds, while Michael Miranda and Anthony Semerad chipped in 8 points apiece and combined for 11 rebounds.

Christian Standhardinger paced the Gin Kings with 19 points, 10 rebounds, and 7 assists, although he sat out the last seven minutes as Ginebra head coach Tim Cone opted to go with a different endgame rotation.

Aside from Standhardinger, Cone also benched Scottie Thompson for the entire fourth quarter, with the former MVP ending up with just 4 points on top of 6 rebounds and 6 assists.

Japeth Aguilar netted 15 points and Ahanmisi added 14 points in the loss, which dropped the Gin Kings to a 7-4 record.

While Ginebra remained at No. 2, the defeat caused Magnolia to fall to No. 7 as the sister teams found themselves in an early playoff collision, with the twice-to-beat Gin Kings hoping to make quick work of the Hotshots.

The result of the game also prevented Terrafirma from clinching its first quarterfinal spot in eight years.

Instead, the Dyip will face NorthPort in a do-or-die match for the eighth and last playoff seat on Wednesday, May 8, at the same venue.

The Scores

NLEX 76 – Bolick 25, Rodger 11, Herndon 9, Miranda 8, Semerad 8, Amer 7, Anthony 4, Marcelo 4, Fajardo 0, Valdez 0, Taha 0.

Barangay Ginebra 72 – Standhardinger 19, J. Aguilar 15, Ahanmisi 14, Pringle 7, Cu 5, Thompson 4, Tenorio 2, Pessumal 2, Onwubere 2, David 0, Pinto 0, Murrell 0.

Quarters: 23-16, 35-32, 59-54, 76-72.

– Rappler.com

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Delfin Dioquino

Delfin Dioquino dreamt of being a PBA player, but he did not have the skills to make it. So he pursued the next best thing to being an athlete – to write about them. He took up journalism at the University of Santo Tomas and joined Rappler as soon as he graduated in 2017.