NLEX was able to hang on for a wire-to-wire win
(Photo by the PBA Media Bureau)
Heading into the new season, the Kia Picanto has been one of the hottest topics of pundits owing to the fact that they traded away their chance of drafting Christian Standhardinger to the San Miguel Beermen in exchange for bench players. Most people are laughing at this decision precisely because Standhardinger could have been the new face of the franchise and he will be, one day, for the Beermen instead. Despite the trade, Chris Gavina said that his team is out to prove their doubters wrong that the Kia Picanto will be competitive with the team that they have.
On the other hand, the NLEX Road Warriors are heading into this game, filled with confidence and hope. Why? The Road Warriors will be bannered by the dynamic backcourt duo of Kevin Alas and this year’s number 2 pick, Kiefer Ravena.
True enough, the Kia Picanto was able to surprise the NLEX Road Warriors until the Road Warriors found their groove late which enabled them to open the Philippine Cup with a 119-115 victory over Kia as they opened the Kiefer Ravena era in the PBA.
Kia’s Impressive Start
Just seconds after making his first start, Kiefer Ravena immediately made sure that his presence was felt as he assisted on the Road Warriors’ first basket and added 2 three-pointers during the first few minutes of the first quarter as NLEX went up, at 12-5 before Eric Camson nailed two freebies for the Picanto. From that moment, the Picanto went on a scoring run to tie the score for the first time, at 12 apiece until Kia took the lead on a Paniamogan trey, at 15-13. The Picanto was able to stretch their lead to 7 points as they were hitting their threes early on.
The Kia Picanto was able to end the first quarter with the lead, at 40-36. This success can be associated with their 60% shooting from rainbow distance and of course, Eric Camson’s 15 points in the first quarter alone.
Kia Kept on Surprising
While many expected Yeng Guiao’s boys to start playing well at the start of the second quarter, Kia just kept on scoring especially from outside as their lead extended to 8 points, at 48-40 with 10 minutes to play in the first half. A Jackson Corpuz lay-up gave Kia their first double-digit lead, at 54-44.
Throughout the second quarter, the Picanto was able to get significant contributions from almost everyone- including Ronald Tubid who was one of the players they received from the Standhardinger deal. Even though NLEX was able to inch closer, their offensive inconsistency was what kept them from inching much closer to the latter parts of the quarter. But, thanks to the efforts of Kiefer Ravena who already had 13 points and 7 assists at the half, the Road Warriors were able to trim down the lead to 4 points at the break, at 68-64.
Up and Down Battle in the Second Half
Opening the third quarter with a slim margin, the Picanto relied on their inside game as they slowly established a double-digit anew during the early goings of the 2nd half. However, the Road Warriors went on a 10-0 run to tie the game at 76 all with under 7 minutes to play in the quarter. Kia was able to regain the lead and even extend it back to 9 after Dylan Ababou drained a difficult shot.
However, just like in the 2nd quarter, Kiefer Ravena led NLEX’s comeback as he scored on a fast break lay-up to tie things up at 85 apiece as Juami Tingson drained a three-pointer to give the Road Warriors their first taste of the lead since the first quarter. Unfortunately, the Picanto was able to end the third quarter with the lead, at 92-90.
Thre first few minutes of the 4th quarter looked like a see-saw, literally and figuratively as both squads were able to score on each other as the score stayed close unlike in the first half. NLEX actually had multiple chances to take and build a big lead but was only hampered by missed open shots and turnovers.
Taking advantage of the defensive lapses of NLEX, JR Gallanza scored 5 points on two possessions to make it 106-103 with under 6 minutes to spare. After that, NLEX went on a mini-scoring run to regain the lead, 107-106 only to watch Kia regain the lead on another Camson basket.
With the score tied at 108 apiece, both teams struggled to score on open opportunities with Kevin Alas getting his fast-break lay-up blocked. Then, with the Picanto down two, Jay-R Reyes attacked his defender, got fouled and calmly drained both charities to tie things up at 111 all with under two minutes to play but Alex Mallari was able to get NLEX back on top with an inside basket.
After Jay-R Reyes tied the game at 113 all, Larry Fornacier drained a trey while getting fouled and made the ensuing free throw to give NLEX a little cushion with 66 seconds left. Reyes scored on the other end to bring Kia within two as they were able to get the rebound on NLEX’s next possession which led to a fumble. The ball possession remained with the Kia Picanto though although they only had 15 seconds on the game clock. Kia was able to shoot the ball but missed multiple opportunities to tie the score and even turned the ball over with 4.3 seconds left. JR Quinahan iced the game with 2 free throws.
Kiefer Ravena had a phenomenal debut, finishing the game with 18 points, 7 rebounds and 12 assists. Kevin Alas and Michael Miranda added 14 points each for NLEX who shot 51% from the field.
On the other hand, Kia Picanto had Eric Camson leading them with 24 points while Rashawn McCarthy added 14 points. However, Kia cooled down offensively and only shot 36% from the three-point line.
NLEX 119 – Ravena 18, Miranda 14, Alas 14, Mallari 13, Fonacier 12, Al-Hussaini 12, Quinahan 12, Tiongson 11, Baguio 5, Soyud 4, Ighalo 4, Taulava 0.
KIA 115 – Camson 24, McCarthy 14, Corpuz 13, reyes 12, Galanza 12, Celda 9, Ababou 9, Khobuntin 8, Paniamogan 7, Tubid 4, Yee 3, Caperal 0.
36-40, 64-68, 90-92, 119-115.