WHATEVER smokescreen NLEX tried to build up in the offseason, the Road Warriors themselves blew away in one game.
The Road Warriors, who had insisted that they are one of the underdogs entering the conference, never let up in a 101-71 rout of Erase XFoliant as they began their quest for a fourth straight PBA D-league crown in the Aspirants Cup on Tuesday at the San Juan Arena.
NLEX had the game in the bag as early as the first period after posting a 30-19 lead in the first quarter. Six players ended up scoring in double digits in the lopsided victory.
Garvo Lanete, who was part of the pro-backed Smart Gilas 2.0 lineup in the recent Jones Cup and Fiba-Asia Cup, had 17 points while Ian Sangalang added 14 for the Road Warriors.
Two-time UAAP Finals MVP Nico Salva and Smart Gilas 2.0 cager Matthew Ganuelas had 13 points each while Kirk Long and Ronald Pascual each had 12 and 10 markers, respectively.
Before the season, the star-studded NLEX squad raised some eyebrows when assistant coach Adonis Tierra and team manager Roland Duterte said the Road Warriors should be considered underdogs because most of their mainstays have moved on to the pros.
While saying that the new team has not practiced with a full lineup, NLEX coach Boyet Fernandez admitted he has the pieces in place for another shot at the title.
Against Erase XFoliant, the only major piece missing from the squad was big man Greg Slaughter, who has yet to complete his Bureau of Immigration requirements.
“We haven’t practiced as a team for months so I just challenged my players,” said Fernandez. “My players have the talent but the question is how we were going to play as a team.”
NLEX spoiled the debut of Aric Del Rosario as head coach in the league. Erase XFoliant was led by Nate Matute, who had 22 points.
NLEX (101) – Lanete 17, Sangalang 14, Salva 13, Ganuelas 13, Long 12, R. Pascual 10, Sumalinog 7, Camson 6, Amer 2, J. Pascual 2, Hermida 2, Alas 2, Garcia 1, Escoto 0.
Erase XFoliant (71) – Matute 22, Mendoza 15, Acosta 8, Stevens 7, Allen 5, Thompson 4, Gomez 4, Babayemi 2, Cornejo 2, Vidal 2, Arboleda 0, Vijandre 0.
Quarterscores: 30-19; 49-30; 76-44; 101-71.