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MPBL: Nueva Ecija keeps pace with Pampanga after escape of GenSan


Defending champions Nueva Ecija, former titlists Batangas, and the leading Pampanga team displayed their strength in the OKBet-MPBL (Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League) Fifth Season at the Caloocan Sports Complex on Wednesday.

The Nueva Ecija Rice Vanguards held off the final assaults from the GenSan Warriors to secure a 97-93 victory and keep pace with the Pampanga Giant Lanterns, who dominated the Oriental Mindoro Disiplinados, 91-70.

Meanwhile, the Batangas City Embassy Chill Athletics proved their prowess by defeating the Caloocan Batang Kankaloo, 80-67, in the nightcap. This victory propelled them to the second spot in the South division, trailing only the idle Bacoor Strikers in the 29-team tournament.

GenSan posed a threat twice, with the last instance being at 84-85 after a triple by Mark Cruz. However, Nueva Ecija’s Byron Villarias responded with a triple, and Michael Mabulac scored underneath with just 40 seconds left. This propelled the Rice Vanguards to their 20th win against four losses, following Pampanga (22-2) in the North division.

Nueva Ecija was led by Will McAloney with 14 points and 11 rebounds, followed by Jonathan Uyloan with 14 points, Mabulac with 13 points and 5 rebounds, Roi Sumang with 12 points, and Villarias with 12 points, 5 assists, 5 rebounds, and 5 steals. Michael Juico also contributed with 10 points and 7 rebounds.

GenSan received contributions from Kyt Jimenez with 17 points, 7 rebounds, and 4 assists, Larry Rodriguez with 16 points, 8 rebounds, and 8 assists, John Wilson and Cruz with 14 points each, and Enzo Joson with 11 points and 7 rebounds.

The Nueva Ecija-GenSan match was closely contested throughout, with neither team leading by more than seven points.

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Batangas faced strong resistance from Caloocan but managed to pull away behind Juneric Baloria and Jeckster Apinas, securing their 18th win against five losses. This victory displaced GenSan (18-6) and put Batangas in second place behind Bacoor (19-4).

Baloria tallied 17 points, 11 of which came in the second half, complementing Apinan’s 10-point, 19-rebound, and 5-assist performance. Ochea contributed 10 points and 12 rebounds, helping Batangas dominate the boards, 55-45.

Caloocan’s Batang Kankaloo, who now have a 17-8 record, received 14 points from Reil Cervantes, 11 from Mac Baracael, and 10 from Paul Sanga.

Pampanga initially allowed Mindoro to score the game’s first 10 points before regaining momentum behind Encho Serrano and eventually pulling away to a 71-47 lead late in the third quarter.

With MVP race-leader Justine Baltazar playing sparingly, Serrano contributed 23 points, 5 assists, and 4 rebounds for Pampanga. The team also got 14 points, 9 assists, and 8 rebounds from Jayson Castro Apolonio, and 13 points each from Archie Concepcion and Louie Sangalang.

Baltazar settled for 4 points and 5 assists in a 10-minute stint, ending his double-double streak at 22.

Oriental Mindoro, now at 4-20, received 13 points and 16 rebounds from Kristan Hernandez, and 13 points, 9 rebounds, and 5 assists from Paolo Hubalde.

The MPBL heads to the Muntinlupa Sports Complex on Thursday, featuring games between Imus and Paranaque at 4 p.m., San Juan and Valenzuela at 6 p.m., and Makati and Muntinlupa at 8 p.m.

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