2 KO games cap D-League semis todayBy Jasmine W. Payo
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Defending champion NLEX tries to avoid what seemed improbable all season long.
On the brink of elimination, the Road Warriors hope to rise to the challenge and nail a title berth against the upset-conscious Jose Rizal University Bombers in the deciding Game 3 of their semifinal duel in the PBA D-League Aspirants Cup at Filoil Flying V Arena in San Juan.
“Definitely, the pressure is on their side,” said JRU coach Vergel Meneses after his Bombers stunned the three-time champions, 108-94, in Game 2 to drag the series to a do-or-die contest.
“We have nothing to lose in this semifinals and everything to gain.”
Gametime is 4 p.m. with the Road Warriors still favored to rebound from just their second loss of the season.
Blackwater Sports and Cagayan Valley dispute the championship berth in the other semifinal encounter that’s too tight to call.
The winners of the two games will advance to the best-of-three finals starting Thursday.
The Road Warriors try to make some adjustments following the shocking loss that came just two days after their 20-point crushing of the Bombers, 105-85, in Game 1.
“JRU came out with a lot of energy [in Game 2],” said NLEX coach Boyet Fernandez.
In Game 2, the Bombers got out of the gates on a 12-1 spurt and never looked back as John Byron Villarias (24 points), Philip Paniamogan (20 points), Dexter Maiquez (20 points and 10 rebounds) and John Pinto (16 points and five assists) all came out with huge games.
“This is an overachieving team,” said Meneses. “Nobody expected us to be in the quarters, nobody expected us to be in the semis.”
The Road Warriors hope to bring back their fine form in the series opener where collegiate stars Nico Salva, RR Garcia, Greg Slaughter, Ian Sangalang and Kevin Alas delivered.
Blackwater coach Leo Isaac said his Elite, who tied the best-of-three series at 1-1 with an 86-79 Game 2 triumph last Thursday, need to sustain their strong defensive game.
“Our major adjustment in Game 2 was our defense,” said Isaac, who is leaning on Kevin Ferrer, Jeric Fortuna and Karim Abdul.
The Rising Suns stunned the favored Elite in Game 1 with an emphatic 91-76 victory.