Defending champion Blackwater Sports and NLEX forged a title rematch after sweeping their semifinal opponents yesterday in the PBA D-League Foundation Cup at the Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig City.
The Elite came away with a 91-86 victory over the Jumbo Plastic Linoleum Giants and the Road Warriors escaped via a scary 62-61 win opposite the Cebuana Lhuillier Gems to complete a two-game sweep of their respective semis series.
Blackwater and NLEX will add a final chapter to their rivalry before heading to the PBA next season when their best-of-three title affair begins on Friday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Blackwater enforcer Gilbert Bulawan dominated the paint anew as he finished with 22 points and eight rebounds as the Elite overcame a 61-49 deficit in the third before making a strong response after Jumbo Plastic rallied from 11 down in the fourth to grab an 83-82 lead near the homestretch.
“At the end of the day, depensa parin ang nagpapanalo sa amin. Medyo nagulat lang yung mga players nung fourth quarter because of the physicality ng Jumbo pero nakapag-adjust naman,” Blackwater coach Leo Isaac said.
Mark Cruz had 14 points for Blackwater while Reil Cervantes finished with 13 points and nine rebounds.
Meanwhile, NLEX’s Kevin Alas broke out of a 2-of-12 slump with a game-tying triple before teammate Ola Adeogun hit two free throws with 1:27 left to put the Road Warriors on top, 62-60.
The Gems’ Gab Banal cut the deficit down to half after splitting his charities and had an opportunity to force a deciding third game when the Road Warriors’ Garvo Lanete missed a wide-open three with 10 seconds left.
But Cebuana’s Alvin Padilla missed a floater right in the heart of the NLEX defense as time expired, sending the Road Warriors bench in a frenzy.
“The crucial part of the game was the shot of Kevin Alas. He was missing his shots but I do trust him and I know that he will bring his team to where he wants to go,” NLEX coach Boyet Fernandez said.
“We really started out flat in the third, I coached very poorly but we learned a lot from this game,” he added. (Christian Jacinto)