KEVIN Alas hit a crucial triple before Ola Adeogun scored the go-ahead free throws as NLEX survived Cebuana Lhuillier, 62-61, on Tuesday at the Ynares Sports Arena to reach the finals of PBA D-League Foundation Cup.
Alas finished with only seven points but came up with a crucial three-pointer that tied the ballgame at 60 with 1:56 to play, helping NLEX secure its seventh straight finals appearance in the developmental league.
After Alas’ triple, Adeogun hit two charities off a foul by Brian Ilad with Cebuana Lhuillier in penalty to give NLEX the lead.
Cebuana Lhuillier missed two chances to either tie or win Game Two and extend the series into a knockout match.
Gab Banal split his two free throws with 35.5 seconds left, and Alvin Padilla missed a tough running shot against NLEX’s defense in the game’s final possession.
With the victory, NLEX arranged a battle with Blackwater Sports, a rematch of last year’s Foundation Cup finals. Game One of the best-of-three finals series is set on Friday, 1:30 p.m. at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
NLEX managed to complete the semifinal sweep despite losing an early 15-point lead and trailing by 10 in the third period. Alas made just 2 of 12 attempts from the field before hitting the huge triple to tie the game.
“The turning point was the shot of Kevin Alas,” said NLEX coach Boyet Fernandez. “He was missing his shots but I do trust in him. He will bring this team to where we want to go.”
Fernandez also took the blame for losing the big lead in the first half.
“I coached poorly today. But I do credit Cebuana for this. I’ve learned from this game. Hopefully I could learn and prepare myself for Blackwater,” Fernandez said.
Jake Pascual, Garvo Lanete, and Ronald Pascual each had 11 points to topscore for the Road Warriors.
NLEX got off to a fast start and grabbed a 19-4 lead before Cebuana found its groove to enter halftime down by just one, 34-33.
The Gems started strong in the third, with Marcy Arellano converting a lay-up that made it 44-34 midway in that period.
Cebuana Lhuillier was on the verge of a Game Two win with Bam Gamalinda hitting a short stab for a 60-57 lead with 2:13 remaining in the fourth but NLEX maintained composure.
The loss spoiled Bam Gamalinda and Arellano’s effort after they scored 20 and 15 points respectively for the Gems.
NLEX (62) – J. Pascual 11, Lanete 11, R. Pascual 11, Adeogun 8, Dela Cruz 7, Alas 7, Long 4, Dela Rosa 3, Amer 0, Raymundo 0, K. Pascual 0, Koga 0, Ganuelas 0.
Cebuana Lhuillier (61) – Gamalinda 20, Arellano 15, Sarangay 6, Padilla 5, G. Banal 5, J. Banal 4, Acibar 2, Leynes 2, Ilad 2, Zamar 0, Mangahas 0, Paredes 0.
Quarterscores: 21-11; 34-33; 47-50; 62-61.