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Tiebreaker Times


MPBL: Nueva Ecija sweeps group phase as Catacutan shines in Sarangani win over Bulalakaw

Nueva Ecija completed a sweep while Sarangani barged into the semifinal round with a lopsided win on Thursday in the 2023 MPBL (Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League) Preseason Tournament at the Lagao Gym in Brgy. Lagao, General Santos City.

Showing why they are the reigning MPBL national champions, the Rice Vanguards routed Valenzuela, 94-64, for their third straight win in Group B of the elimination phase of the eight-team weeklong tournament staking P3 million to the champion.

The Sarangani Marlins subdued guest team Bulalakaw of MPBL Founder and CEO Manny Pacquiao, 106-86, in the nightcap to climb to 2-0 and become the first semifinals qualifier in Group A.

Batangas City rallied to beat Zamboanga Family’s Brand Sardines in the opener, 88-83 and tied its victim in the hunt for the second semifinal slot in Group A.

With the Rice Vanguards already assured of a semifinal seat, Nueva Ecija coach Jerson Cabiltes had the luxury of shuffling his 15 players, including new recruits Harvey Pagsanjan, Joshua Fontanilla, and Rich Guinitaran who did their part in handling Valenzuela its third straight defeat.

Veterans Christopher Bitoon and John Paul Sarao led Nueva Ecija with 15 and 13 points, respectively, while Pagsanjan, a former University of the East Red Warrior, added 12 points plus four rebounds, four assists, and two steals.

Guinitaran, a prized find from Pagadian City, contributed 8 points and 4 rebounds while Fontanilla, formerly of St. Clare Caloocan, chipped in 6 points, 6 assists, and 3 rebounds.

Orin Catacutan shone for Sarangani with 23 points, 10 rebounds, and four steals, followed by San Sebastian standout Rafael Are with 15 points, six rebounds, five assists, and three steals, and Benjie Jimenez with 15 points and seven rebounds. Reggz Albert Gabat and Mark Poole contributed 11 points each for Coach John Kallos’ charges.

#ReadMore  Mabulac, Bitoon have mixed emotions facing ex-team Basilan in MPBL Final

Bulalakaw got a game-high 28 points from Pacquiao, including five triples, who also had six rebounds, four assists, and two steals.

The elimination phase ends Friday with Zamboanga in a must-win situation against Sarangani at 5 p.m. and Batangas in the same boat against Bulalakaw at 9 p.m. GenSan and Imus dispute the second semifinals berth in Group B at 9 p.m.

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