Who else but Alas as new NLEX ace

Philippine Daily Inquirer - - SPORTS - ERNESTO A. GON­ZA­LES

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.

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