A 54-DAY break has hardly slowed down the powerhouse NLEX Road Warriors squad.
Still sharp despite having not played a league game since December, the Road Warriors trounced Jose Rizal University, 105-85, on Tuesday to step closer to a return trip to the finals of the PBA D-League Aspirants Cup at the Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig City.
NLEX can close out the best-of-three semifinal series on Thursday, also at the Ynares Arena.
“They really wanted to win the first game,” said NLEX coach Boyet Fernandez, whose team ended its elimination- round much earlier than the other teams on December 20 to make room for their players' tour of duty with the Gilas Pilipinas national squad.
“Even though we haven’t practiced for a long period of time together, they just stepped up and showed that they can play as a team.”
Six players scored in double figures for NLEX with Nico Salva leading the way with 17 points and Ian Sangalang adding 14. Gilas cadet pool members RR Garcia, Kevin Alas, and Greg Slaughter had 12, 11, and 10 points respectively, while Eric Camson added 10 points.
The mighty Road Warriors posted a sizeable 25-13 lead after the first quarter and never looked back.
Byron Villarias, who finished with a game-high 21 points, hit six triples in the fourth but the scoring explosion hardly dented NLEX's lead.
Dexter Maiquez had 12 points and Philip Paniamogan added 10 points for JRU.
NLEX (105) – Salva 17, Sangalang 14, Garcia 12, Alas 11, Slaughter 10, Camson 10, J. Pascual 6, Long 6, Sumalinog 6, Lanete 6, Amer 5, Hermida 2.
JRU (85) – Villarias 21, Maiquez 12, Paniamogan 10, Del Rio 9, Apinan 8, Almario 7, Ighalo 7, Pinto 6, Mabulac 3, Caperal 2, Mirza 0, Lopez 0, Miranda 0.
Quarterscores: 26-13; 51-24; 73-51; 105-85.