The Manny V. Pangilinan (MVP) owned NLEX Road Warriors team has won the first ever PBA-D League trophy as they beat the Cebuana Lhuillier Gems in 2 games in their best of 3 finals series. The final score in game 2 was 61 to 59 in favor of NLEX. The game was a a very close match all throughout the ball game. The brilliance of the two coaches, Boyet Fernandez and Luigi Trillo, were shown in this game. This game is a mind game. The coaches had to step up just to make sure that their respective teams execute properly in their plays. The game went down to the last ball possession of NLEX. The game was tied at 59. NLEX's coach, Boyet Fernandez sketched a great play the freed-up Ronald Pascual on the left plank and he sank the game winning shot for NLEX.
Both of the teams have deep benches and they both have great superstars, but it was NLEX's Beast, Calvin Abueva who stood tallest among the stars of all stars in the PBA D-League. He's well aware of the importance of game 2 because he knows that if they will lose this game, they will not have Eric Salamat in game 3 because of personal reasons. Abueva almost tore his jersey because he always dive for the lose balls in this game. His hard work and determination against the defenders of the Gems paid off. He was able to score against Marvin Hayes. His match-up against Hayes is one of the individual match-ups that I watched very closely in this game. These two, Abueva and Hayes, are two of the strongest players in the D-League. But I have to say, Abueva had upper hand in this game. He was able to flex his muscles against Hayes. Calvin "The Beast" of Baste Abueva had 18 points, 12 rebounds 2 blocks in this all important game 2. He was able to maintain his composure down the wire against the Gems.
Abueva was helped by Ronald Pascual in this Finals series. Ronald Pascual top scored in game 1 of this series and today in game 2 he was the chosen one who made the game winning shot. He's so proud that he can't help but smile after the final buzzer sounded. In the game, you'll see on his face that he badly wants to win this Finals series. Pascual and Abueva, the Pinatubo Twins of Baste did all what they had to do to get this win. Their 4 months of rogorous training have paid off.
In the last 5 minutes of this ball game, the score of both teams was just below 50 points. That's just a testament on how close this game is. Call it monotonous, but still, this game is one hell of a ball game.
Let's fast forward in the last 50 seconds of the ball game. NLEX had a 2 point lead but with the ensuing play, Kevin Alas of the Gems courageous showed his ball handling skills against the taller defender of NLEX. He maneuvered his way to the basket for a free lay-up. That basket tied the game at 59 all. And then Abueva started to work again for NLEX to fish for some fouls. He was sent into the free throw line but he missed both of his free throws. The ball possession shifted to the Gems. They had the chance to take the lead but James Sena missed his elbow jumper and so the ball went back to NLEX. With .8 of a second remaining, Coach Boyet Fernandez seized the golden opportunity to sketch a game time play. The play was secretly designed for Ronald Pascual. They were able to execute well the play. They deceived coach Luigi Trillo, thinking that the ball will go to Cliff hodge or Ellis. He didn't expect that Mr. Ronald Pascual was the designated shooter for NLEX. The Gods heard NLEX's prayers because the shot went in and that's it! NLEX won the first ever 2011 PBA D-League Foundation Cup Title.
After the game, Calvin "The Beast" Abueva said, as an answer to the question on what made him play this way, like a beast. He said:
"The NCAA made me play this way."
John Henry Lhuillier, the owner of the Cebuan Lhuillier Gems was still happy for his team's 2nd place finish. On the other side, MVP was so proud of his team. He even said "NLEX is my favorite team."
Attorney Chito Salud, the Commissioner said that October 2011 will be the start of the second season of the D-League. He wants more team participants in the upcoming season. He also added that this league is open to those who want to have a career in Philippine basketball.
And so to all those who want to be part of the D-League, whether you're a player or an enterprise you can be part of the D-League as long as you're willing to apply for it. Go after your dreams. It's not yet too late.