Road Warriors: One win away from a repeat

Mia Domingo

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The PBA D-League defending champions NLEX Road Warriorstake home Game 1 of the Aspirants' Cup Best of 3 finals 75-51 against Freego Jeans.

The NLEX Road Warriors are one stop away from a conference sweep against Freego Jeans.  Ian Sangalang’s high octane performance drove the Road Warriors’ 75-51 win – allowing the defending champions to race home with Game 1 of the 2011-2012 PBA D-League Aspirants Cup Best-of-3 Finals held at the Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig.

Early Demise 

Freego Jeans went through the spin cycle in the second quarter. Roider Cabrera opened up the period with a long distance connection that put them within two – 19-21, but that was as close as it could get.

The Jeans Makers then went scoreless after Bacon Austria’s bucket at the 7:03 mark all the way until the halftime buzzer sounded.

Their deafening silence allowed the Road Warriors to build a 40-21 cushion at the half with Sangalang running off with six points during that stretch.  Freego Jeans only shot 2-of-17 or 11.8% compared to the Road Warriors’ 43% or 7-of-16.

Insurmountable Lead 

In the third period, the Road Warriors went on a 14-4 run behind Sangalang and leading Best Player of the Conference candidate Ryan Roose Garcia.  It gave the defending champions their biggest lead at 29 points – 54-25 with 2:35 left.

The Warriors’ blitz left the Jeans Makers scoreless for five minutes – no thanks to their forced shots on the floor.

At the start of the fourth quarter, the Road Warriors led by 25 points.  They then just continued pounding steadily away at the hard court in the final ten minutes by exchanging baskets with Freego Jeans.

Game Over 

NLEX had a balanced offense – with 11 of their 14 playing scoring at least 2 points.  Calvin Abueva reminded everyone why he is called The Beast – finishing with just 7 points but complimenting these with 15 huge boards and two assists.  Sangalang once again paced the Road Warriors with 20 points followed by RR Garcia’s 13.

Coach Boyet Fernandez was unable to contain his emotions while calling the shots from courtside.  A nearly jam-packed arena witnessed his exuberance throughout the game.

At the end he said, “We’re just lucky dahil they’re coming off a long break. Happy we got this game. Hopefully we can sustain this until the next game. Mahirap din kasi sa kanila dahil ang haba ng pahinga nila.”

Missing Link

Alex Nuyles, one of Freego’s main men, was a non-factor as he was heavily guarded by NLEX’s prolific wards Chris Ellis and Calvin Abueva. Nuyles was limited to just seven points.

Eric Camson also struggled offensively and managed just 8 points.

Diminutive guard Lester Alvarez, who has been playing superb basketball with the Jeans Makers, was the only Freego player to finish in double figures with 13 markers.

Freego’s Coach Leo Austria had a sling on his left arm after incurring an arm injury last Saturday while playing basketball. He is still optimistic they can extend the series. He is also hopeful that they can regroup and bounce back on Tuesday.

Stay tuned

The finalists go at it again on Tuesday, February 7 at the Filoil Flying V Arena in San Juan for Game 2.

The Road Warriors will be trying to finish it off.

The Jeans Makers will be hoping to get one more chance.  –

Box Scores:

North Luzon Expressway (75) — Sangalang 20, Garcia 13, Lanete 8, Hodge 8, Abueva 7, Monfort 5, Marcelo 5, Co 3, Hermida 2, Suguitan 2, Belencion 2, Arao 0, Ellis 0, Dehesa 0

Freego Jeans (51) — Alvarez 13, Camson 8, Nuyles 7, Cabrera 6, Manyara 5, Apinan 4, Austria 2, Brondial 2, Lopez 2, Lozada 1, Elinon 1, Monteclaro 0

Quarter Scores: 21-16, 40-21, 57-32, 75-51

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