It was an intense day of basketball action as Nueva Ecija and Zamboanga Family’s Brand Sardines dominated their respective opponents, grabbing the early lead in the 2023 MPBL (Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League) Pre-Season Tournament at the Lagao Gym in Brgy. Lagao, General Santos City on Tuesday.
The Rice Vanguards brought out their lethal form in the second half to subdue the Imus SV Squad, 88-78.
The game was tight at halftime, with the defending national champions barely leading undermanned Imus.
However, a tongue-lashing from Coach Jerson Cabiltes during the break ignited a fire in the Rice Vanguards, and they came out stronger in the second half. They led by as many as 18 points before cruising to victory.
John Byron Villarias and Pamboy Raymundo led Nueva Ecija with 13 points each, followed by Michael Mabulac with 11.
The game also gave new Rice Vanguards recruits Harvey Pagsanjan, Joshua Fontanilla, and Rich Guinitaran a chance to prove their mettle, and they contributed 6, 3, and 2 points, respectively.
Zamboanga, the South Division champion, also put on an impressive show as they dominated guest team Bulalakaw, 102-75.
The Zamboanguenos came out hot from the start and never looked back. With the game under control, Zamboanga coach Vic Ycasiano fielded the full complement of his 14-man roster, all of whom managed to score.
New acquisition Judel Ric Fuentes lived up to expectations with a team-high 14 points, followed by Jhapz Bautista with 13, 2022 MPBL MVP Jaycee Marcelino with 12, Jayvee Marcelino with 10, and Ralph Tansingco with 10 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists, and 2 steals.
The tournament, which serves as a prelude to the MPBL Fifth Season starting on March 11, is an eight-team, weeklong event dangling P3 million to the champion.
Host General Santos City started the day’s games with an 82-73 win over Valenzuela XUR Homes Realty Inc.
The action continues on Wednesday with another triple-bill at the same venue, with Batangas City, the 2018 MPBL Rajah Cup champion, and Sarangani kicking off the games at 5 p.m. The other matches will see Imus taking on Valenzuela at 7 p.m., and GenSan facing Nueva Ecija at 9 p.m.