KEVIN Ferrer scored the go-ahead basket with 14.4 seconds left and Pari Llagas came up with a crucial steal on the next play as Blackwater Sports drew first blood in the PBA D-League Foundation Cup Finals with a 70-67 win over defending champion NLEX on Thursday at the Ynares Sports Arena.
Justin Chua had 12 of his 17 points in the second half while Allan Mangahas had 16 points and 12 rebounds for Blackwater Sports, but Ferrer and Llagas starred in the dying moments to take the victory.
Ferrer scored on a reverse lay-up off a Robby Celiz assist for a 68-67 advantage, then Llagas’ steal prevented the Road Warriors from retaking the lead.
After Mangahas sank two free throws with 12.1 seconds left in the game, Ronald Pascual and Garvo Lanete failed to convert their three-point attempts as NLEX suffered its first-ever loss in a PBA D-League finals.
Blackwater now gets the chance to win its first league title, and end NLEX's run of four championships, when Game Two of the best-of-three title series is played on Tuesday, also at the Pasig arena.
Llagas finished with eight points, 10 rebounds, and two blocks.
The Road Warriors still had the upperhand after Pascual hit back-to-back triples with 2:10 left in the fourth, 67-66, but the Elite were still able to recover.
“We tried to regroup and we were successful in regrouping,” said Blackwater coach Leo Isaac. “We made an undergoal stab and we held on. It all boils down to basic basketball. Team defense, discipline on defense and offense.”
The Elite won after trailing, 29-38, at the half, outscoring the Road Warriors, 27-14, in the third for a 56-52 lead.
Isaac said that they needed to go into the game believing that they can beat NLEX.
“I’ve been telling my players, hindi naman bakal ang kinakain nila. Bigas rin naman na nagiging kanin. They are also human. Kaya naman namin silang tapatan. All we have to do is condition our minds na kaya namin,” Isaac said.
NLEX held a 45-36 lead but Blackwater used a 17-5 run to grab the upper hand, 53-50, in the third.
Blackwater had a 66-61 lead when Pascual buried a pull-up triple. He again converted another three-point basket with Celiz defending to give NLEX a 67-66 advantage.
Blackwater Sports (70) – Chua 17, A. Mangahas 16, Llagas 8, Ciriacruz 7, Celiz 7, Ferrer 6, Suguitan 5, Bagatsing 2, Vigil 2, Mazo 0, Pe 0, J. Mangahas 0, Austria 0.
NLEX (67) – Lanete 12, Salva 10, R. Pascual 10, Slaughter 9, Long 7, Villarias 6, J. Pascual 6, Camson 4, Alas 3, Amer 0, Hermida 0, Garcia 0.
Quarterscores: 14-20; 29-38; 56-52; 70-67.