Nueva Ecija had to endure overtime before subduing San Juan, 89-83, and forcing a Game 3 decider in the North division title series on Monday in the OKbet-MPBL (Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League) 4th Season Presented by Xtreme at the FilOil EcoOil Arena in San Juan.
The Rice Vanguards survived the horror of losing a 26-point lead, 46-20, in the second quarter. They then banked on JR Taganas and Hesed Gabo in the extra period to avenge their 72-79 loss to the Knights last Friday.
The burly Taganas fired 19 points, including the dagger three with 48 seconds left. He also snared 15 rebounds, and pulled off two steals to earn best player honors. On the other hand, Gabo fired five of his 18 points in that span.
Renz Palma was the other Rice Vanguard in twin digits with 10. Jay Collado also did his share with seven points, including four in overtime, and five rebounds.
Trailing, 66-76, with 4:13 to go, the Knights put up one final push, holding the Rice Vanguards scoreless the rest of regulation play. For their part, they came through with 10 on a triple by Dexter Maiquez and the last seven by Judel Fuentes.
Fuentes finished with 27 points but only two in overtime.
San Juan also got 14 points from Marwin Taywan, who sparked the comeback with back-to-back triples opening the third quarter. Michael Calisaan scored 10 points.
Despite shooting poorly, San Juan persevered behind Fuentes and cut the gap somewhat, 30-49, at the half.
The deciding Game 3 will be on Friday at the Nueva Ecija Coliseum in Palayan City.
Nueva Ecija shot 8-of-11 triples in the first half, but struggled in the second, making only 1 of 13 tries, courtesy of Taganas.