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MPBL: Nueva Ecija completes 21-game elims sweep


Nueva Ecija completed a sweep of the elimination round with an 84-72 victory over Batangas City-Embassy Chill on Saturday in the OKbet-MPBL (Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League) 4th Season Presented by Xtreme at the jam-packed Nueva Ecija Coliseum in Palayan City.

It was the 21st straight win for the Rice Vanguards, who lived up to the pre-season hype as the team to beat in the 22-team tournament split into the North and South divisions.

Flaunting its star-studded roster, Nueva Ecija’s bench outscored its Batangas counterparts, 42-25, which proved to be the big difference in the game touted to be a preview of the National Finals slated in December.

Byron Villarias led the Rice Vanguards with 16 points, five rebounds, five assists, and two steals to earn best player honors. He got ample support from Will McAloney with 14 points and six rebounds, Michael Mabulac with nine points and nine rebounds, Renz Palma with nine points and seven rebounds, and Hesed Gabo with nine points and two rebounds.

Nueva Ecija’s 21-0 record under Coach Jerson Cabiltes matched the PBA’s longest win streak posted by legendary Crispa in its 1983 Grand Slam season.

Batangas suffered its fourth loss in 20 starts and dropped to the second spot in the South division behind Zamboanga Family’s Brand Sardines, which totes a 17-3 slate.

Cedric Ablaza, who joined the elite MPBL 1,000-point club, posted 19 points, 15 rebounds, four assists, and three steals, but his effort went for naught as Batangas committed 23 turnovers and was unable to match Nueva Ecija’s balanced offense.

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Levi Hernandez contributed 15 points and Rudy Lingganay 10 for Batangas.

As top qualifier, Nueva Ecija will clash with the No. 8 and last qualifier in the North division in the playoffs that start on October 15.

In other games, Bacoor won the “Battle of Cavite” with a 73-68 victory over neighbor Imus, while General Santos City trounced Manila, 96-83.

The Strikers climbed to 9-12 behind RJ Ramirez’s 15 points and eight rebounds; Lester Reyes’ 11 points and four rebounds; and Mark Montuano’s 10 points and eight rebounds.

Imus tumbled to 5-14 despite the 21-point, 12-rebound output of Rene Pacquiao.

The Warriors, who improved to 15-6, got 18 points from Marlon Gomez and 14 from John Orbeta.

Manila fell to 6-15 despite Mark Yu’s 28 points and Francis Camacho’s 21.

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