NLEX shifts into high gear in the 2nd half to cruise past Cafe FranceBy Mark Giongco
MANILA, Philippines – NLEX head coach Boyet Fernandez challenged his players during a halftime huddle after struggling in the first half.
The Road Warriors put in every word Fernandez said and came out firing in the second half to fashion out an 85-62 drubbing of Cafe France Tuesday in the PBA D-League Foundation Cup at the Blue Eagle Gym.
“Medyo masama yung start [The start was rather bad], we’re rattled up probably because we really wanted to win this ball game and get back against Cafe France because they were the only team to beat us last conference and they stopped our winning streak,” said Fernandez.
“I challenged them at halftime. I told them you know you’re not only playing to win but also to protect your name, NLEX and as well as your name at the back,” Fernandez added. “Talent for talent we’re capable of playing good. Our starters played well to start the third and our bench.”
NLEX trailed by as much as nine points in the second quarter and by six, 27-33, at the intermission before it cruised ahead – outscoring Cafe France, 33-18, in the pivotal third period to take the lead for good.
NLEX kept its foot on the gas in the final quarter to pad on to its lead to 20, 78-58, on a three-pointer by Kirk Long with 3:30 left.
The Bakers, whose four-game winning run was snapped, were held scoreless for more than five minutes after Mark Lopez made a triple at the 7:27 mark of the final frame where they were just down by eight, 58-66.
Borgie Hermida led the way with 17 points while Nico alva poured in nine of his 16 points in the third quarter.
Jake Pascual added 10 points and 14 rebounds, including a tip-in that gave the lead back to NLEX, 40-39.
Hermida nailed a trey after Marion Magat’s follow up to put NLEX ahead for good, 43-41, with 5:31 remaining in the third quarter.
The win put NLEX above .500 (3-2) for the first time this conference but it would take another performance like this for the Road Warriors to keep winning and regain their deadly form for good.
“We’ll be facing Cagayan Valley, Fruitas and Blackwater and it will be a tough three games,” said Fernandez, whose squad still await frontline reinforcement in Ariel Mepana.
Mepana, an inside bruiser, could give NLEX a boost down low but Fernandez seemed doubtful on whether his recruit would be able to play.
“His birthday is on April 11, if he will not make it tomorrow we’re dead already,” said Fernandez. “He’ll be 29 then if he won’t make it tomorrow.”
The league has an age limit of 28 years old.
Cafe France, led by Lopez’ 14 points, fell to 4-2.