NLEX and Cebuana Lhuillier Gems moved one win away from a finals rematch in the PBA D-League Foundation Cup after disposing their semifinal foes Thursday at the Ynares Sports Arena.
The defending champion Road Warriors leaned on Cliff Hodge and Calvin Abueva in the final quarter to beat Blackwater Sports, 86-77, while the Gems downed second-seed Big Chill, 79-66, in their respective Game 1 affairs.
The Road Warriors and the Cebuana Lhuillier Gems can sweep their semifinal series on Tuesday at the San Juan gym.
Hodge had 22 points, including 10 in the fourth quarter, to go along with eight rebounds while Abueva chipped in 13 points and 16 rebounds for the Road Warriors, who needed a 13-2 run midway in the fourth quarter to clinch the hard-earned victory.
“Give credit to Blackwater. They really came into the game prepared. They really are the top scoring team in the league. But our defense really came through in the final period,” said NLEX coach Boyet Fernandez.
The Cebuana Lhuillier Gems, meanwhile, picked up the pace of the game with their pressing defense to defeat Superchargers, who entered the game as an outright semifinals in the conference.
Reserve Chris Exciminiano came off the bench to score 16 points while James Mangahas and Vic Manuel had 10 apiece for the Gems.
Hodge began the pivotal run with a putback before Abueva gave NLEX the lead for good on two free throws in the 5:41 mark of the game, 66-65.
Blackwater’s AJ Mandani closed the gap to five points on a three-pointer but Garvo Lanete answered with five consecutive points for an 80-70 lead.
NLEX could not put Blackwater Sports away all game. Paul Zamar’s four triples kept the Elite within distance as they only trailed by one point, 58-59, entering the fourth.
Mark Jeffries gave Blackwater Sports a 65-62 lead in the fourth but that was the last time the Elite took the lead as NLEX began that telling run.