NLEX Road Warriors escaped with a narrow 88-87 victory over the Magnolia Hotshots, to take Game 1 of their semifinal duel in the 2018 PBA Philippine Cup at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum Saturday night.
Going up against the best defensive team in the league, the Road Warriors gave the Hotshots a dose of their own medicine before making crucial endgame plays to steal the win and draw first blood in their best-of-seven affair.
Cyrus Baguio rediscovered his vintage form, putting up team-high 17 points alongside five rebounds, four steals, and one assist in almost 30 minutes off the bench as the Road Warriors scored its first-ever victory over the Magnolia franchise since coach Yeng Guiao’s arrival.
NLEX limited their opponents to a low first-half output where they led by as many as nine points, 29-20, before settling for a 32-27 advantage. The Hotshots though, heated up and drained five three-pointers in the third canto to snatch the lead, 61-60, that expanded to 74-68 on another triple by Rome dela Rosa, 7:22 left in the payoff period.
Back-to-back baskets from Ian Sangalang, who posted 21 points and nine boards, kept NLEX at bay as Magnolia remained on top, 84-83, with over one minute to go.
But in the final fourteen seconds, Alex Mallari and Kiefer Ravena delivered the dagger plays for NLEX that brought Magnolia to its knees.
Mallari knocked down a dagger trey off a pass from Ravena to give them an 86-84 edge, before the rookie iced the match with his two free throws.
The duo combined for 30 points as starters, while Raoul Soyud contributed 10 points and one block for the Road Warriors.
Game 2 of this series will take place on Monday, March 12 at 7:00 p.m. at the Mall of Asia Arena.
NLEX 88 – Baguio 17, Ravena 16, Mallari 14, Soyud 10, Miranda 7, Fonacier 7, Al-Hussaini 6, Alas 5, Quiñahan 4, Tiongson 2, Ighalo 0, Taulava 0, Gotladera 0.
MAGNOLIA 87 – Sangalang 21, Simon 20, Barroca 9, Lee 8, Ramos 8, Reavis 6, Herndon 5, Pingris 5, Dela Rosa 5, Melton 0, Jalalon 0, Brondial 0.
Quarter scores: 14-12, 32-27, 60-61, 88-87.