Defending champion Nueva Ecija showed that it is still the team to beat in the OKBet-MPBL (Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League) Fifth Season, as they handed Imus an 84-63 drubbing on Saturday at the packed Imus Sports Complex in Cavite.
Powered by Will McAloney and Byron Villarias, the Nueva Ecija Rice Vanguards dominated the veteran-laden Imus Squad, pulling away by as many as 25 points (84-59) to extend their winning streak to 11 games in the elimination round of the 29-team tournament.
Quezon Province, with all 15 of their players contributing to the score, trounced Laguna Krah Asia, 101-76, while Pasig City MCW Sports dumped Bicol, 115-75, completing a day of lopsided victories.
McAloney fired a game-high 25 points and grabbed 6 rebounds, while Villarias posted 20 points, 5 assists, and 3 steals as Nueva Ecija handed Imus its sixth loss in ten starts.
They were supported by Michael Mabulac, Chris Bitoon, and Renz Palma, who each added 8 points, and JR Taganas, who snagged 10 rebounds. Despite being the smaller team, the Rice Vanguards also dominated the boards, outrebounding their opponents 45-42.
Imus received 15 points from multiple slam-dunk king Nino Canaleta, 11 points, and 9 boards from Marc ‘Pinoy Sakuragi’ Pingris, and 10 points from Johnsherick Estrada.
Former superstars Mac Cardona and Jayjay Helterbrand, however, were held to 2 points and 0 points, respectively, by the pesky Nueva Ecija defenders.
Quezon, with five Huskers scoring in double digits, sealed the outcome midway through the fourth quarter at 92-63, but continued to dominate to snap a three-game losing streak and improve to 8-3.
Mark Pangilinan and Alfrancis Tamsi led Quezon with 13 points each, followed by Daryl Pascual with 12, Raffy Verano with 11, and Brix Ramos with 10.
Despite Nino Ibanez’s impressive performance of 22 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 steals, and 2 blocks, Laguna fell to 2-10.
Pasig, with Ryan Costelo scoring 33 points, climbed to 8-4 while handing the cellar-dweller Bicol their 12th consecutive defeat.
Costelo received support from Piefce Tyron Chan with 14 points, Kenny Roger Rocacurva with 13, and 10 points each from Robbie Manalang and Shane Menina, who also grabbed 12 rebounds.
The MPBL will return to the Batangas City Coliseum on Monday, featuring Sarangani against Quezon City at 4 p.m., Bacolod against Muntinlupa at 6 p.m., and Paranaque against Batangas at 8 p.m.