|NLEX guns for three-peat; Big Chill hopes to make history|
The NLEX Road Warriors are on the verge of a title repeat. Only two wins separate them from clinching their third straight championship.
And with an 11-game winning streak – the longest by any team in the fledgling league – it’s hard to imagine the defending champions ending the season empty- handed.
Yet, for all their depth and experience, NLEX coach Boyet Fernadez is not looking far ahead, nor does he expect to accomplish their goal handily.
And nobody could blame him.
The Road Warriors are up against a Big Chill unit they denied of its first finals appearance last conference and emotionally charged to seek revenge.
Big Chill advanced to the championship playoffs for the PBA D-League Foundation Cup championship by ousting Cebuana Lhuillier in the decisive Game 3 of their semifinal series last Thursday.
Game 1 of the best-of-three titular series is scheduled at 2 p.m. on Monday at the Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig City. All finals games will air live on AKTV on the same day at 5pm.
“This will be a classic match-up. Both teams are evenly matched in terms of individual talent,” Fernandez said.
This marks Big Chill’s first finals appearance dating back to its days in the defunct Philippine Basketball League and coach Robert Sison promised that his troops will go all-out in their quest.
“The whole organization starting from management up to the whole team are so motivated and so pumped up and so prepared for this encounter with NLEX,” Sison said.
The Superchargers were one win away from their first finals appearance last conference but the Road Warriors won the next two games of their semifinal series and went on to capture the Aspirants’ Cup.
The Big Chill mentor has maintained that the Road Warriors have a very deep bench but strongly believes his troops can match up with the defending champions.
“Everyone in the team is healthy and excited to play in the championship,” he said.
The Road Warriors are the league’s top defensive team. They are limiting opponents to a low 62 points a game so its no surprise that Fernandez maintains that their tough mentality will be their key to success in the series.
Big Chill averaged 80 plus points per game to emerge as the league’s top offensive team.
Although this is his tean's first time on the big stage, Sison said the pressure weighs more on the shoulder of the Road Warriors.
“Defending your title is doubly harder than winning it on your first shot at it,” Sison said.
The element of pressure, Fernandez said, is always present in any championship game and this one is no different.
“Big Chill is well-coached. Coach Robert is a champion coach. But as long as my team is ready and prepared for every game, I will be okay,” he stressed. “This is tough but we are ready.”
Meanwhile, the league’s top performers will be honored on Thursday prior the start of Game 2 at the San Juan Arena.
The awardees are Cliff Hodge of NLEX, Best Player of the Conference; while RR Garcia (NLEX), Lester Alvarez (Freego Jeans/Cebuana Lhuillier), Alex Mallari (Big Chill), Vic Manuel (Cebuana Lhuillier) and Hodge were named to the Mythical Five. (Dave Coros)
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