Nueva Ecija emerged victorious over Gen San, 73-67, in the 2023 MPBL Pre-Season Tournament, Wednesday at the Lagao Gym in Brgy. Lagao, General Santos City.
The reigning MPBL national champions, Rice Vanguards, secured the first semifinals slot in Group B with their second straight win.
The eight-team weeklong event has a whopping P3 million top prize, which the Rice Vanguards are gunning for.
The Warriors suffered their first loss, dropping to 1-1, and will now battle Imus, which totes the same record, for the second semifinals berth. Imus secured a spot after a dominant 88-65 win over Valenzuela in the elimination phase.
In Group A, Sarangani took the lead by stunning Batangas City, 93-90, in the opener. They are tied with Zamboanga Family’s Brand Sardines.
Nueva Ecija was powered by Jay Collado and Michael Mabulac, who scored 15 points each. John Villarias contributed nine points as the Rice Vanguards took control of the game after allowing the Warriors to score the first basket.
Coach Jerson Cabiltes’ team extended the lead to 58-40 before cruising along in the fourth quarter, with Pamboy Raymundo and Michael Juico also contributing.
GenSan got 18 points from Christian Fajarito, 12 from Nico Elorde, and 11 from Delmar Mahaling.
Imus came into the game against Valenzuela hungry for a win after a disappointing 88-78 loss to Nueva Ecija. They were able to take control of the game and pull away late, winning by a huge margin of 76-37.
Joseph Penaredondo led the team with 22 points, 15 of which came in the first quarter. Jaymar Gimpayan and Johnsherick Estrada also contributed with 15 and 14 points, respectively.
The tournament continues on Friday, with Zamboanga battling Sarangani at 5 p.m. Other games that day include GenSan against Imus and Bulalakaw against Batangas.