The NLEX Road Warriors celebrate after beating Blackwater Sports to win the PBA D-League Foundation Cup championship. Photo by Nuki Sabio, PBA D-League Images.
MANILA, Philippines - Ronald Pascual drilled in eight of his 13 points in the fourth quarter while Jake Pascual delivered a clutch basket as NLEX bucked Blackwater Sports' strong second half charge to eke out an 81-78 victory and clinch the PBA D-League Foundation Cup crown via sweep at the MOA Arena yesterday.
The Road Warriors blew a 12-point lead but kept their poise under pressure, pulling through in a scrambling finish to get back at the Elite, who snapped their reign in the league two conferences ago, and complete a stirring 13-game sweep of the season-ending conference.
“This championship is a lot sweeter than our last conference win because we swept the team that beat us two conferences ago,” said NLEX coach Boyet Fernandez.
Jake Pascual topscored with 15 points to lead five others in double figures. His scoop shot with 67 seconds remaining gave the Road Warriors some cushion after Reil Cervantes pulled the Elite within two with still 1:59 to play.
It was the third Foundation Cup championship and sixth overall for NLEX, one of the three expansion teams for the next PBA season.
“My players are good. They were willing to make sacrifices that is why we became a successful team,” addedFernandez.
Ola Adeogun and Garvo Lanete got their game going early as NLEX dominated the first quarter, 27-20, but slowed down in the next and barely held on to a 42-38 edge at the turn.
NLEX held a 47-43 lead early in the third but Blackwater Sports scored the next 10 points to take the lead, setting the stage for a tight finish with the lead changing hands six times and the score tied five times, the last at 62 to end the period.
“We kind of started flat in the third and Blackwater took the opportunity to get back in the game,” said Fernandez.
The Elite opened the fourth with a 67-65 lead on a pair of free throws by Jericho Cruz. But Ronald Pascual, who scored NLEX’s first five points of the period, hit a 12-foot jumper then buried a triple to cap a 10-0 run that shoved the Road Warrior back on top.
Cervantes powered his way to a game-high 31 points, including four straight points that pulled Blackwater within, 73-75. But the Elite failed to sustain their charge, bungling a couple of key shots down the stretch.
The 6-10 Adeogun scored 10 points and pulled down 14 rebounds as the Road Warriors controlled the boards, 49-39, and enjoyed a 42-20 advantage on points in the paint.