NLEX booked its sixth finals appearance in six PBA D-League conferences with an 85-72 victory over Hog’s Breath Cafe on Thursday in the Aspirants Cup semifinals at the Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig City.
The Road Warriors dominated from the start, posting a 20-8 advantage at the end of the first quarter and leading by as many as 32 points to sweep the semifinal series.
NLEX awaits the winner of the other semifinal series between Blackwater Sports and Big Chill, Game Three of which is slated on Tuesday at The Arena in San Juan.
For the first time in the short history of the league, the finals will be played at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum with Game One set February 21 at 5 p.m., before Game Four of the Philippine Cup Finals between San Mig Super Coffee and Rain or Shine.
“We started strong and we stuck to our game plan that is why we led by that many,” said NLEX coach Boyet Fernandez. “I’m happy that we got this win and hopefully, we can get a good rest in preparation for the finals.”
NLEX won the first four conferences of the league before bowing to Blackwater Sports in the Foundation Cup last year.
Garvo Lanete had 16 points, while Matt Ganuelas added 14 markers. Jake Pascual had a double-double of 11 points and 10 rebounds for NLEX.
Billy Ray Robles finished with 18 points in a losing effort for Hog’s Breath, which nonetheless had an impressive campaign this conference after winning just one game in their debut in the Foundation Cup.
NLEX (85) – Lanete 16, Ganuelas 14, J. Pascual 11, Alas 9, R. Pascual 8, Dela Cruz 6, K. Pascual 6, Hermida 6, Raymundo 4, Adeogun 4, Dela Rosa 1.
Hog’s Breath Café 72 – Robles 18, Racal 13, Ruaya 11, Publico 7, Sanga 6, Paniamogan 5, Austria 3, Gabawan 3, Rios 2, Allera 2, Macasaet 2.
Quarterscores: 20-8; 40-28; 69-44; 85-72.