The Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League (MPBL) is set to launch its Pre-Season Tournament on Tuesday at the Lagao Gym in Brgy.Lagao, General Santos City. Eight teams, divided into two groups, will vie for the championship and a whopping P3 million cash prize.
The defending champion, Nueva Ecija Vanguards, is among the fancied teams, along with Zamboanga Family’s Brand Sardines and Batangas. However, they will face challenges from dangerous squads like Imus and Bulalakaw, the guest team owned by MPBL Founder and CEO Manny Pacquiao.
In Group A, Zamboanga, Batangas, Sarangani, and Bulalakaw will clash in the opening rounds. Meanwhile, Nueva Ecija, General Santos City, Valenzuela, and Imus will compete in Group B.
Nueva Ecija swept the elimination round of the 2022 MPBL Regular Season and is once again tagged as the team to beat. With an intact lineup, coach Jerson Cabiltes added proven talents Joshua Fontanilla, Harvey Pagsanjan, and Rich Guinitaran, further bolstering their roster.
Zamboanga, on the other hand, is coming in strong with last year’s scoring champion Enzo Joson and former San Juan gunners Judel Fuentes and Dexter Maiquez, along with former Rizal starter Keanu Caballero.
MPBL Commissioner Kenneth Duremdes said the tournament would be an excellent opportunity for the teams to assess the strength of the opposition before the MPBL Fifth Season, which will begin on March 10. The regular tournament will feature 30 teams, including newcomers Quezon Province Huskers and Negros Muscovados, divided into the North and South Divisions.
The Northern Division consists of Bataan, Bulacan, Caloocan, Makati, Manila, Marikina, Pampanga, Paranaque, Pasay, Pasig City, Quezon City, Rizal, San Juan, and Valenzuela, while the Southern Division includes Bacolod, Bacoor, Batangas, Bicol, Cebu, GenSan, Iloilo, Imus, Laguna, Mindoro, Muntinlupa, Negros, Quezon, and Sarangani.
The Pre-Season Tournament will be a week-long event, with the championship game scheduled on Feb. 27. The second placer will receive P500,000, the third placer P300,000, and the fourth placer P200,000. The rest of the eight-team field will receive P100,000 each.
Fans can watch the games live on MPBL’s official Facebook and YouTube channels. The MPBL Pre-Season Tournament promises to be an exciting preview of the upcoming Fifth Season, with some of the best basketball talent in the country set to compete for supremacy.