Tierra outburst sparks NLEX rally

NLEX's Earl Clark drives past Blackwater's Cameron Krutwig. Photo by Rio Deluvio / Daily Tribune
NLEX's Earl Clark drives past Blackwater's Cameron Krutwig. Photo by Rio Deluvio / Daily Tribune

Interim coach Adonis Tierra's rare technical foul in the crucial stretch fired up NLEX en route to a thrilling 106-102 come-from-behind victory over Blackwater in the Philippine Basketball Association Commissioner's Cup Friday, 30 September at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Known for his cool demeanor and mild-mannered approach, Tierra had an unusual outburst as a reaction to a non-call on what he believed to be an illegal screen in the final 5:14 of the match with the Road Warriors trailing, 85-95.

Tierra was slapped with a technical foul, but the Road Warriors responded positively as they unleashed a telling 15-point binge to complete the come-from-behind victory.

"Maybe my technical foul triggered the players," said Tierra during the post-game interview.

"I also got mad at the players because of our lapses in our defense, particularly against ball screens. We were not able to react on players making a backdoor. But we were able to adjust in the third quarter."

Blackwater was dictating the tempo of the game for the most part, leading by as many as 16 points, 64-48, but it couldn't come up with the knockout blow midway in the fourth period just when the Road Warriors were making an uprising.

Tierra acknowledged that there were growing pains running the new system of incoming head coach Frankie Lim, who will officially take over as head coach in its next game against Magnolia on 12 October to have enough time to finetune his philosophy and strategy.

Reverting to the old system had crossed Tierra's mind and he even used some of them but stuck to the game plan introduced by Lim in his first few practice sessions.

"There were times we were going back to our old ways, but that's just about 20 to 30 percent," Tierra said.

"We missed a lot of three-point shots because that's part of coach's system. But this coming week, we can fix the system of Coach Frankie."

Tierra has completed his task as interim mentor undefeated in two games before Lim takes over.

Import Earl Clark carried the Road Warriors for the most part of the match, but key local players Kevin Alas, Justin Chua and Matt Nieto stepped up when needed the most as NLEX notched its second win in as many starts and surprisingly vaulted into a share of the lead with visiting Bay Area Dragons.

Clark had monster numbers of 38 points, 19 rebounds, four rebounds, three blocks and a steal as he is now beginning to set the standard among reinforcements in the PBA.

The NBA veteran, who played alongside the late great Kobe Bryant with the Los Angeles Lakers, believes the best has yet to come from him.

"Yeah, I'm just trying to do the best that I can and help my team win," Clark said.

"But it's not about me, it's about the win. Today, we had a great win. We have to fight for it and it wasn't easy. I think we can build on that."

Don Trollano had 18 points and eight rebounds while Alas added 16 markers and Nieto chipped in 10. Chua contributed nine points, including six during that crucial stretch in the fourth.

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