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PBA: NLEX stifles Phoenix in 2nd half for 3rd straight win


Jericho Cruz shines for NLEX in their third straight win. PBA IMAGES

MANILA, Philippines — Searching for answers early, NLEX figured things out in the second half to beat Phoenix, 94-76, for its third straight win in the 2021 PBA Philippine Cup Saturday at DHVSU Gym in Bacolor, Pampanga.

The Road Warriors took their defense up a notch in the third quarter to take control of the game after struggling to shake off the Fuel Masters.

“We got a bit worried in the first half because of their good execution. We couldn’t find a solution for their setup for Matthew Wright,” said NLEX head coach Yeng Guiao.

“But when we somewhat got a feel of it, we were able to react in the second half and that’s the reason we kind of put some distance between us. We played better defense in the second half,” he added after his team climbed to 4-2.

Wright set the tone for Phoenix with 10 points in the first quarter but NLEX tightened its defensive screws and was able to hold him scoreless the rest of the way.

The Road Warriors also had a lot to show on the end of the floor with several players led by Jericho Cruz coming through.

Cruz fired a game-high 19 points that went with eight assists and four steals while Raul Soyud finished with 17 points on 8-of-9 shooting from the field on top of seven rebounds despite hurting his ankle in the third period.

Kevin Alas was also all over the floor with 11 points, seven rebounds and five assists while JR Quiñahan had 14 points, seven rebounds and two blocks for NLEX, which played without its main man Kiefer Ravena for the second consecutive time.

“It’s hard to fill Kiefer’s shoes but collectively we can do that,” Cruz said.

Phoenix, which drew 12 points each from Jason Perkins and Chris Banchero, dropped to 2-5.

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