Nueva Ecija completed its sweep of the its Chooks-to-Go Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League Pool C, keeping Muntinlupa winless, 84-72, Monday at the SM Mall of Asia Arena.
The Cagers went on a 7-0 spurt to trim the Rice Vanguards’ 10-point lead to just three, 64-67, in the 5:35-mark of the fourth period.
Nueva Ecija then answered with a 12-4 blast to restore the lead to 11, 79-68, through a Will Gozum jumper with 2:38 left in the match.
“Today it’s kinda hard to judge after what happened yesterday,” lamented Rice Vanguards head coach Carlo Tan. “Para kang sumakay ng roller coaster eh. You went up, you went down, you had the thrill of your life and then you come into a game na una, there were a lot of these fouls; unsportsmanlike fouls, technical.
“Baka ma-suspend pa ‘yan next game and the other team ain’t playing the next game, but we are. So it could have been an issue right? So emotionally, I think the team let down a little bit at the start of the game. But as we figured out the game it got better,” he added.
Byron Villarias continued his consistent offensive showing for the Mayor Rianne Cuevas-backed Rice Vanguards with 15 points laced with six rebounds. Gozum had 15 points as well to go along with eight rebounds.
Michael Mabulac added 10 points and 12 rebounds. Roi Sumang and Diego Dario added 10 and eight markers, respectively.
Nueva Ecija took the number one seed in Pool C with a 4-0 record. On the other hand, Muntinlupa ended its MPBL Invitational stint without winning in four tries.
Nueva Ecija will go up against Pool A second seed Iloilo in the quarterfinals tomorrow, Tuesday at 7:30 PM.
Settling for the second seed is San Juan-Go for Gold AICC (3-1). Meanwhile, Valenzuela (2-2), Sarangani (1-3), and Muntinlupa (0-4) round up the group. San Juan will face Pasig-Sta. Lucia at 2:30PM, also on Tuesday.
Chino Mosqueda had his best outing for the Cagers with 21 points and five rebounds. Gabe Capacio contributed 18 points and four boards in the loss.
Justin Alano led Muntinlupa’s 7-0 rally in the fourth. He grabbed nine boards to go along with his four points.
Nueva Ecija (84) – Gozum 15, Villarias 15, Sumang 10, Mabulac 10, Dario 8, Palma 6, Balucanag 6, Gutang 4, Sarao 3, Bitoon 3, Banal 2, Belgica 2.
Muntinlupa (72) – Mosqueda 21, Ga Capacio 18, Vidal 8, Ylagan 6, Destacamento 5, Alano 4, Dixon 4, Reyes 0, Bagatsing 0, Emerterio 0, Torres 0.
Quarterscores: 15-25, 35-32, 59-48, 84-72.