Nueva Ecija kept its playoff chances alive after downing Batangas-Tanduay, 85-81, in the 2019-20 Chooks-to-Go MPBL Lakan Season, Monday at the San Andres Sports Complex in Manila.
JP Sarao made the go-ahead freebies with 15.46 ticks left in the game after he was fouled by Batangas’ Jayson Grimaldo on a rebound play to go up 83-81.
In the ensuing play, Rey Suerte drove to the basket but Tonino Gonzaga stole the ball, giving Nueva Ecija the possession.
“I am very happy that we win this one because Batangas is a playoff team, Rey Suerte is a national player, malakas ang kalaban namin, it is a nice win for us,” said Nueva Ecija coach Charles Tiu.
James Martinez posted 18 points, including three triples, alongside five dimes, powering the Rice Vanguards to a 7-16 win-loss card, for the 13th spot in the Northern division — six games behind eighth-running Caloocan with seven games left.
Sarao came through with 14 points and six rebounds for the Rice Vanguards while Adrian Celada chipped in 12 markers, all from behind the arc.
Suerte tallied 17 points and seven boards while Jason Melano added 16 markers, as the Athletics slipped to 13-10, still seventh in the South.
Nueva Ecija 85 – Martinez 18, Sarao 14, Celada 12, De Leon 10, Reyes G. 9, Reyes J. 9, Monte 7, Gonzaga 2, Arana 2, Sabellina 2, Dela Cruz 0.
Batangas-Tanduay 81 – Suerte 17, Melano 16, Grimaldo 14, Santos 12, Sara 12, Koga 6, Bragais 2, Eguilos 2, Salim 0, Basibas 0, Rogado 0, Olivares 0.
Quarterscores: 22-11, 43-44, 66-65, 85-81
Story by Justin Valencia
Photo by Nicks Hernandez