RONALD Pascual scored 17 points including 4-of-7 from three-point range as NLEX rolled past Blackwater Sports, 90-77, for a 1-0 lead in the PBA D-League Foundation Cup Finals on Friday at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
Art Dela Cruz topscored with 18 points, Kevin Alas and Garvo Lanete had 11 apiece, while Jake Pascual added 11 and grabbed 14 rebounds for the Road Warriors, who moved a win away from clinching their sixth league title and a perfect 13-game sweep of the season-ending tournament.
Game Two is on Monday, 3:30 p.m. at the Mall of Asia Arena.
“I give credit again to my players. Our game plan will not really materialize if not for my players. I did everything to challenge them and let them know that we will not win against Blackwater if we don’t follow our rules and game plan,” said NLEX coach Boyet Fernandez.
NLEX trailed 30-35 when Ronald Pascual suddenly waxed hot and scored 10 points, including two three-pointers, in a run that made it a 45-40 halftime lead for the Road Warriors.
Dela Cruz steered NLEX to a 67-50 lead in the third quarter from which the defending champion Blackwater never recovered.
The Road Warriors posted their largest lead of the game at 88-70 with 2:33 left in the game behind four straight points by Dela Cruz.
“We started out flat but the game plan worked. We know that Blackwater will run all the time. What we did is every time we missed a shot, we sprint to the paint and protect the paint and let Blackwater beat us with the three-point shot,” said Fernandez.
Reil Cervantes had 20 points for the reigning champion which took the early lead after Mark Cruz strung up three triples including a four-point play that made it 35-30.
It turned out to be the Elite’s final threat in the opener of the best-of-three series.
NLEX (90) - Dela Cruz 18, R. Pascual 17, Alas 11, J. Pascual 11, Lanete 11, Dela Rosa 7, Adoegun 6, Amer 3, Raymundo 2, K. Pascual 2, Ganuelas 2, Long 0.
Blackwater Sports (77) - Cervantes 20, M. Cruz 18, Ferrer 11, Bulawan 11, Ciriacruz 6, Austria 6, Llagas 4, J. Cruz 1, Mangahas 0, Manguera 0, Pinto 0.
Quarterscores: 21-23; 45-40; 69-56; 90-77.