Burly import Pierre Henderson-Niles is 1 win away from completing a basketball title-chase that has eluded him since his collegiate days with the powerful Memphis Tigers in the US NCAA.
The 6-foot-8 Henderson-Niles tallied 15 points, hauled down 16 rebounds and issued 3 assists on Tuesday night to help Rain or Shine hold off San Miguel Beer’s endgame rally, 98-96 to erect a commanding 2-0 PBA Commissioner’s Cup semifinal series lead.
The former Memphis back up big man hopes the Elasto Painters could complete the sweep of their best-of-5 semifinal series on Thursday when action shifts from Smart Araneta Coliseum to Philsports Arena in Pasig.
“One win away, that’s the most important win on Thursday, and hopefully, we can pull it out,” the 29-year-old Rain or Shine reinforcement told media men after the game.
“I played in the college national champion game and we lost in a buzzer-beater. Hopefully, we can make it to the championship when we take this all the way up,” he added.
Henderson-Niles could still remember future 2-time NBA champion guard Mario Chalmers sink the buzzer-beating, 3-point shot that sent the game into overtime during the hotly-contested 2008 US NCAA Finals between Memphis and Kentucky. Kentucky went on to win the national championships, 75-68 in the extension period.
That was eight years ago.
Now, Henderson-Niles said he has a chance to write a different story as a pro basketball player.
Against San Miguel’s star center June Mar Fajardo, Henderson-Niles was able to adjust defensively, keeping himself away from foul trouble and limiting the 2-time PBA MVP to just 8 attempts in Game 2.
The heavyweight import said he knew Fajardo will attack him relentlessly, but he was not afraid of the challenge at all.
“San Miguel is better and I think June Mar is better offensive-wise,” he said. “June Mar tried to attack me but, I love defense because I’’m gonna play defense all my life.”
Fajardo still finished the game with 14 points and the same number of rebounds, but he was only 4-of-8 from the field overall, while going 6-of-12 from the foul line. – By Richard Dy
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