The league’s virtual all-star team again proved to be all that.
NLEX got off to a blistering start and kept Cagayan Valley at bay the rest of the way as the Road Warriors took Game 2 with an 82-71 triumph yesterday to capture a fourth straight PBA D-League championship.
“There are so many stories in every championship,” said NLEX coach Boyet Fernandez. “We couldn’t practice as a complete team because some of our players had commitments to Gilas (national team) and their schools. We had injuries, we had issues to settle. So this is a sweet victory after all those times we had problems.”
With a collection of amateur stars led by Most Valuable Player Ian Sangalang, the Road Warriors again came out as one intimidating unit to complete a 2-0 sweep of the best-of-three Aspirants Cup finals series at Filoil Flying V Arena.
Garvo Lanete fueled the Road Warriors’ hot start, knocking in 14 of his 17 points in the first half on top of seven rebounds and three assists.
Fellow guard Borgie Hermida added 10 markers and six assists, while star centers Greg Slaughter and Sangalang teamed up for 18 points.
The Road Warriors—who never lost a finals game in all four title runs—also had Jake Pascual, Kirk Long and Ronald Pascual coming through in stretches in the second half when the Rising Suns found a bit of their old fire.
“Everyone’s saying that we’ll win the championship on paper,” said Sangalang, who’s also the reigning NCAA MVP. “So there was pressure because we had to prove that. We really
Just like in their decisive 87-63 Game 1 victory last Thursday, the Road Warriors surged ahead with an 11-0 start that grew to a 17-point gap, 19-2, with still four minutes left in the first quarter.
And it seemed nothing went right for the Rising Suns early as head coach Alvin Pua also got thrown out midway in the second period for physically assaulting a referee while complaining on an alleged non-call.
Hoping to make the ejection a rallying point, the Rising Suns did start to get their rhythm behind Eliud Poligrates after a forgettable opening quarter where the team shot a paltry 28.6 percent from the field.
“It (Pua’s ejection) was a big factor in terms of our energy,” said Fernandez. “When he got thrown out, our players thought it was all over. So I had to scold them at halftime.”
Poligrates, who fired a game-high 21 points, towed the Rising Suns within seven points, 54-61, early in the fourth quarter after trailing by a many as 18 points, 18-36.
But that was the closest the Rising Suns could get as Sangalang, Hermida and Long helped arrest the comeback efforts to put the Road Warriors back up, 77-65, with less than three minutes to go.
“Credit also to Cagayan, from 0-9 to the finals this conference,” Fernandez said of the Rising Suns, who surprisingly reached the title round after a winless run last conference.
Cagayan gunners Chris Exciminiano and James Forrester were also held to four points each, their same output in the Rising Suns’ Game 1 loss.
NLEX 82—Lanete 17, Hermida 10, Slaughter 9, Sangalang 9, Pascual J. 8. Long 8, Pascual R. 8, Alas 4, Camson 4, Garcia 3, Salva 2, Amer 0.
CAGAYAN VALLEY 71—Poligrates 21, Bringas 13, Celada 12, Lao 6, Almazan 5, Webb 4, Forrester 4, Exciminiano 4, Cruz 2, Melano 0, Montemayor 0.
Quarters: 24-10, 45-32, 61-50, 82-71