NLEX, Blackwater favored as D-League s’finals start

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Idle for almost two months, three-time champion NLEX remains favored against Jose Rizal University at the start of their best-of-three semifinal duel in the PBA D-League Aspirants Cup today at Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig City.

“As always, we’ll be ready come game time,” said NLEX coach Boyet Fernandez. “I just hope our defense will carry us through.”

The Road Warriors clash with the Heavy Bombers at 4 p.m. after Blackwater Sports and Cagayan Valley kick off their own semifinal series at 2 p.m.

NLEX was allowed to finish its elimination schedule early as half of its team suited up for Smart Gilas Pilipinas’ international campaigns. Blackwater Sports finished behind NLEX with both teams automatically clinching the first two semifinal berths.

“In all honesty, facing JRU in the semifinals is a tough one,” said Fernandez. “They’re a very strong team. They’ve won five of their last six games and that’s a testament to their ability.”

In their lone eliminations encounter, the Road Warriors blew a 20-point advantage before RR Garcia and Ronald Pascual struck  in the closing seconds to secure a 91-87 decision.

“We’ll give it a shot,” said JRU coach Vergel Meneses. “Hopefully, our success in the quarterfinals would make a difference in this series.”

Leaning on Dexter Maiquez and John Byron Villarias, the fifth-ranked Bombers overcame Big Chill’s twice-to-beat edge in the quarterfinals last week to barge into the Final Four.

Blackwater coach Leo Isaac, meanwhile, hopes his Elite will forge a repeat of their 93-70 elimination rout of the Rising Suns.

“We match up well with them,” said Isaac, who is relying on UST aces Karim Abdul, Jeric Fortuna and Kevin Ferrer.

“I hope we’ll make it to the finals this time,” said Blackwater team owner Dioceldo Sy.

The Rising Suns—bannered by Chris Exciminano, James Forrester and Eliud Poligrates—will try to display the same grit they showed in ousting Cebuana Lhuillier in the quarterfinals.

“Anything can happen, we just have to play tough defense,” said Cagayan coach Alvin Pua.

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