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Tiebreaker Times


MPBL: Nueva Ecija, San Juan forge North Finals showdown

Nueva Ecija and San Juan swept their semifinal rivals in contrasting fashion on Friday and arranged a North division championship collision in the OKbet-MPBL (Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League) 4th Season Presented by Xtreme at the Filoil Flying V Centre in San Juan City.

The Nueva Ecija Rice Vanguards overcame stubborn resistance from Pampanga before prevailing. 89-84, while the San Juan Knights cruised past Pasig MCW Sports, 84-80, to match their first-game victories and cut short the best-of-three playoffs.

The unbeaten Rice Vanguards saw the Giant Lanterns grab the lead at 66-63 and threaten in the dying seconds, 84-85, but keep their composure to match their 104-89 triumph in the series opener and extend their record-winning streak to 25.

MJ Garcia scored back-to-back baskets to put Pampanga in position for an upset, but Nueva Ecija’s Hesed Gabo split his charities and Michael Juico completed a three-point play in the last 15 seconds to peg the final count.

In contrast, San Juan surged ahead, 44-26, in the second quarter and was never headed to duplicate its 88-68 conquest of Pasig in Game One.

Michael Calisaan led the Knights with 18 points and four rebounds, followed by Dexter Maiquez with 12 points and 10 rebounds, Judel Fuentes with 12 points, five rebounds plus four assists and Ron Dennison with 11 points and seven rebounds.

It was Orlan Wamar, who earned best player honors, however, with nine points and 13 assists for the Go for Gold-backed Knights of Coach Randy Alcantara.

Nueva Ecija was ahead, 83-74, when Pampanga’s Alex Ramos bunched six points and Garcia added four against Michael Mabulac’s lone basket to pave the way for the thrilling finish.

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Mabulac wound up with 23 points, 10 rebounds and three assists to earn best player honors. He was supported by John Byron Villarias with 16 points, Jay Collado with nine, and Michael Juico, also with nine.

Pampanga got 20 points from Archie Concepcion, 17 from Raymond Binuya, 11 from Garcia, and 10 from Ramos, who added seven rebounds.

Nueva Ecija, which brought along more than 500 fans and supporters in over 40 vans, and San Juan will begin their best-of-three title clash on November 18 at the Nueva Ecija Coliseum in Palayan City.

The MPBL goes to the Batangas City Coliseum on Saturday with Zamboanga Family’s Brand Sardines and Batangas City Embassy Chill also gunning for semifinal sweeps in the South division.

Zamboanga tackles Bacolod Bingo Plus at 5:30 p.m. while Bataan tangles with Rizal at 9 p.m.

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