Nueva Ecija broke away late, thwarting Bulacan, 85-78, Wednesday in the 2019-20 Chooks-to-Go MPBL Lakan Season at the San Andres Sports Complex in Manila.
Leading by just a point, 72-71, Jai Reyes took over for the Rice Vanguards. He scored the next 10 points for his team — a floater, an and-one, and five freebies — to restore order with 2:09 left, 82-73.
However, the Kuyas wouldn’t go down without a fight. Dennis Santos and Jovit Dela Cruz managed to cut Nueva Ecija’s lead to five, 82-77 with 37.89 ticks left. But they could not buy a basket in the waning seconds, giving their foes the victory.
“Our pick-and-roll today was good, marami kaming nakuha out of that. We just slowly chipped away even though Bulacan was in control most of the game,” said Rice Vanguards assistant coach Carlo Tan, who took the helm since head coach Charles Tiu and lead assistant TY Tang are in the Middle East for Mighty Sports’ tournament in the 2020 Dubai International Basketball Championship.
Reyes registered 20 points and 15 assists, as the also-ran Nueva Ecija improved to 9-18 in the Northern division.
Tonino Gonzaga also delivered 20 markers of his own with seven rebounds. Meanwhile, Justin Arana feasted in the paint, tallying 19 points, 14 rebounds, and four blocked shots.
The Rice Vanguards flexed their muscles on the defensive end, limiting Bulacan to a measly 25-of-78 clip, good for just 32.1 percent, while they buried 43.5 percent of their attempts.
Dela Cruz led the Kuyas with 14 points and six rebounds, while JR Taganas contributed 13 markers, eight boards, and four dimes.
With the loss, Bulacan halted its six-game winning streak. It fell to 18-9, tied with 1Bataan-Camaya Coast for the fourth and fifth spots in the North.
Nueva Ecija 85 – Reyes 20, Gonzaga 20, Arana 19, Sarao 7, Sabellina 6, Monte 6, Martinez 3, Garcia 2, Dela Cruz L. 2, Celada 0, De Leon 0.
Bulacan 78 – Dela Cruz J. 14, Taganas 13, Escosio 11, Diputado 9, Alabanza 9, Nermal 8, Alvarez 5, Santos 5, Capacio 2, Arim 2, Siruma 0.
Quarterscores: 11-21, 36-39, 56-61, 85-78.
Story by Justin Valencia
Photo by Thel Suliva