Batangas City—Host team Batangas City and expansion squad Nueva Ecija had to endure their tough rivals before winning in tightly-fought matches late Saturday night in the third season of the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League at the Batangas City Coliseum here.
Jeff Viernes knocked in 18 of his 25 points to power inaugural staging champion Batangas City Athletics-Tanduay to a 79- 70 victory over the Muntinlupa Cagers-Angelis Resort.
Viernes, the All-Star Game MVP last season, stepped up when needed the most. He had nine in the pivotal fourth period, which he produced in the endgame. His three-point basket in the 3:13 mark of regulation shattered the game’s last deadlock and put the Athletics ahead, 69-66.
It was Viernes who also sealed the win for the Athletics as he scored the team’s last four points to put away the Cagers, their finals tormentor two seasons ago.
The win was a fitting welcome for new head coach Goldwyn Monteverde, who is now handling his first men’s squad after years of coaching in the youth level.
It was also a good way to reward team owner Bong Tan, who celebrated his birthday.
Nearly overshadowed by Batangas City’s triumph was Nueva Ecija-MiGuard’s 78-76 squeaker of Marikina.
The Christian Singson-owned franchise rode on the big games of Marlon Monte and Jerwin Gaco, but it was the putback of JR Cawaling in the final three seconds, which sealed the win for the expansion squad.
Nueva Ecija was the first expansion team to make it to the win column of the 31-team cast of this tournament put up by
Senator Manny Pacquiao with PBA legend and former MVP Kenneth Duremdes serving as commissioner.