NLEX coach Boyet Fernandez need not worry of his team’s two-month layoff after all.
Flashing their firepower from the get-go, NLEX rolled past Jose Rizal University, 105-85, yesterday to move within a win of a return trip to the finals in the PBA D-League Aspirants Cup at Ynares Sports Arena.
“We haven’t practiced for a long time together, but (the players) stepped up and played as a team,” Fernandez said of the three-time champions, who saw action for the first time since December because half of the team suited up for the national squad.
Cagayan Valley also came out sizzling early for a 91-76 upset win over No. 2 seed Blackwater Sports in the other pairing of the best-of-three semifinal series.
James Forrester showcased his scoring arsenal—from a 360-degree dunk to a perfect 3-of-3 from three-point range in the first half—before finishing with a game-high 25 points for the Rising Suns.
The Road Warriors built a 15-point lead, 26-11, in the first quarter and stayed beyond reach the rest of the way with 20-point buffers.
Nico Salva shot 17 points while Ian Sangalang buried all but two of his 14 points in the Road Warriors’ strong first quarter.
Raymond Almazan had a double-double of 18 points and 17 rebounds, while Eliud Poligrates, who added 16 points and six assists, helped the Rising Suns stay comfortably ahead in the second half.
“We don’t want to waste the opportunity, so we grabbed it,” coach Alvin Pua said after his Rising Suns, who had a winless stint last conference, inched closer to a championship berth.
CAGAYAN VALLEY 91—Forrester 25, Almazan 18, Poligrates 16, Exciminano 9, Lao 8, Webb 4, Melano 4, Bringas 4, Canta 3, Pasculado 0, Celada 0.
BLACKWATER SPORTS 76—Ferrer 14, Mangahas 12, Chua 11, Abdul 9, Celiz 7, Vigil 5, Fortuna 5, Mazo 4, Pe 3, Llagas 3, Ciriacruz G. 3, Ciriacruz I 0.
Quarters: 16-20, 47-41, 72-60, 91-76
NLEX 105—Salva 17, Sangalang 14, Garcia 12, Alas 11, Slaughter 10, Camson 10, Pascual 6, Long 6, Sumalinog 6, Lanete 6. Amer 5, Hermida 2.
JRU-AIR21 85—Villarias 21, Maiquez 12, Paniamogan 10, Del Rio 9, Apinan 8, Almario 7, Ighalo 7, Pinto 6, Mabulac 3, Caperal 2, Mirza 0, Lopez 0, Miranda 0.
Quarters: 26-13, 51-24, 73-51, 105-85