MANILA, Philippines—Defending champion NLEX finally got to parade Greg Slaughter as the Road Warriors ran away in the end to beat Cagayan, 84-75, Tuesday in the PBA D-League Aspirants Cup at the JCSGO Gym in Cubao, Quezon City.
Ian Sangalang carried NLEX, which streaked to its seventh straight win in as many games, anew with 18 points, six rebounds and three blocks.
“Credit to Cagayan they’re ready for us. Our boys don’t want to lose because this is a welcome game for Greg (Slaughter). I’m happy Greg and Ian (Sangalang) were able to play well,” said head coach Boyet Fernandez, whose squad has won a total of 24 straight games since losing last January 30.
The Road Warriors rolled to an 11-0 run to put away the Rising Suns, 79-65, capped by a Kevin Alas drive with 4:46 left.
The Rising Suns kept within striking distance and even led, 62-60, to start the fourth quarter but just couldn’t contain the Road Warriors down the stretch.
Sangalang scored his team’s first eight points, all in the shaded area, in the final frame while Ronald Pascual shot all of his six points in a pivotal stretch, including a triple that pushed NLEX’ lead to double digits, 77-65, midway through the fourth period.
Cagayan, which drew 16 points from playmaker Eliud Poligrates, dropped to fourth place with a 4-2 record behind Big Chill and Blackwater.
NLEX, which boosted its bid for an outright semifinals bid, was able to take away Raymund Almazan out of his rhythm with a concerted effort to attack his defense and draw fouls.
Almazan finished with just five points and seven rebounds, a far cry from his league-best 13 rebounds per game average.
Despite the win, Fernandez cited his team’s lack of effort defensively, allowing their opponents to comeback from a deficit.
“Yun (defense) ang problema namin. We cannot always turn it on if we want to turn it on. Defense will win us the championship.”
“We still need two more wins to qualify for an outright semifinals slot,” Fernandez added.
The Suns missed the contributions of key cog Chris Exciminiano, who only played four minutes due to a sprained right knee he sustained during practice last Sunday.