Who else but Alas as new NLEX ace
In a span of four seconds, Kevin Alas turned potential goat to savior and the NLEXRoad-Warriors went on to finally nail a franchise-best three straight wins at the start of a Philippine Basketball Association tournament.
Alas finished with a careerbest 24 points as the Road Warriors nosed out the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters in double overtime, 122-114, last Wednesday to grab the early lead in the Governors’ Cup in their worthiest showing since Yeng Guiao took over as coach at the start of the 2016-2017 season.
True to his family name which means an ace in English, Alas atoned for what seemed like a fatal blunder that allowed Chris Tiu to give Rain or Shine a 110-108 lead with two free throws, time down to six seconds in overtime.
Alas had earlier fouled Tiu during a jump ball and Guiao minced no words describing Alas’ uncalled-for infraction as “f…..g stupid” during a timeout he called to hopefully avoid the impending disaster. But he kept Alas in the game instead of sacking him as other coaches would have normally done as penalty for the grave error. And his gut-feel proved decisive.
After the NLEX throw-in in its own court, Alas asked for the ball and then sliced through the ROS defense with a layup with two seconds left that forged the second extension. Regulation ended at 101-all.
Alas was not through, however.
The former Letran Knight, who ironically was drafted first by ROS in 2014 before a series of trades sent him to Talk ‘N Text and then to NLEX in 2015, added another layup then pulled off his fifth assist for the game that Larry Fonacier turned into a triple in a decisive 11-2 run to set the final count.
“We’re just having a good run,” said Guiao, downplaying talks that the Road Warriors, now with five straight wins since the Commissioner’s Cup, will be going deep in the season’s last tournament. “Three-zero doesn’t make us a contender,” he added while also playing tribute to the big contributions of new NLEX recruits from trades like Fonacier, Alex Mallari and JR Quinahan.
Alas is easily the biggest factor for the NLEX resurgence. He has taken over from Carlo Lastimosa as the team’s top point guard and now is the chief backer of proficient import Aaron Fuller, scoring 20 points when NLEX downed Alaska, 112-104, and added a team second-best 13 points when the Road Warriors blasted the Kia Picanto five, 100-93.
The Meralco Bolts later matched the unbeaten start of their sister team Road Warriors at the expense of the same ROS Elasto Painters, 89-73. The Bolts had earlier exacted re- venge somewhat at the defending champions Barangay Ginebra Kings, 93-78, in an early duel between last year’s finalists.
Fielding two different imports in as many games proved a boon for the Star Hotshots. Unhappy with the 24-point performance of Cinmeon Bowers in their 103-86 rout of Blackwater, the Hotshots came upwith a younger andmore capable reinforcement in Malcolm Hill, who delivered in the last quarter as Star downed the Alaska Aces, 101-92.
Meanwhile, San Miguel Beer and TNT KaTropa, who disputed the recent Commissioner’s Cup title, finally got going with impressive victories. The Beermen launched their bid for the league’s sixth Grand Slam by whipping Blackwater, 118-93, while the KaTropa blasted Kia, 106-96.