Pacesetter Nueva Ecija met stiff resistance from Zamboanga Family’s Brand Sardines before pulling off its 13th straight win in the OKbet-MPBL (Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League) 4th Season presented by Xtreme at the overcrowded Nueva Ecija Coliseum in Palayan City.
The Nueva Ecija Vanguards surged ahead, 71-61, behind Jonathan Uyloan’s three triples, but the Zamboanguenos bunched seven points, capped by Jhapz Bautista’s triple, to make the game a thriller.
John Bryon Villarias, Michael Mabulac and Hesed Gabo, however, joined forces to quell the rally, 80-74, with 44 seconds to go.
Chris Dumapig drove in for Zamboanga’s final basket, while Pamboy Raymundo split two charities with one tick left to peg the final count that delighted the thousands of Novo Ecijanos in attendance, with hundreds more turned away, no end.
Michael Juico tallied 16 points and 6 rebounds for the Rice Vanguards, followed by Mabulac with 13 plus 7 rebounds and Uyloan with 12, all from triples.
Villarias accounted for 11 points, including 3 triples, while Hesed Gabo contributed 1o points plus 13 assists.
Jaycee Marcelino and Jhapz Bautista fired 15 points each for Zamboanga, which also got 12 points and 12 rebounds for Dumapig.
Big guys Jhaymo Eguilos and Jhaymo Grimaldo finally played, but it was evident they were not in peak form yet to help prevent Zamboanga from falling to 8-3 following three straight defeats.
Other games saw GenSan trounce Makati, 89-65, and Rizal Xentromall foil Quezon City MG Cars, 71-70.
The Gensan Warriors were led by Mark Cruz, Dhon Reverente and Cristopher Masaglang with 13, 12 and 10 points, respectively, in posting their fifth win in 10 starts in the elimination phase of the 22-team tournament
Makati tumbled to 1-12 despite the 22-point output of Kobe Bryant Pableo.
Rizal Xentromall stretched its winning run to 4 and jumped to 7-3. Quezon City fell to 4-6.
The MPBL returns to the Strike Coliseum in Bacoor on Tuesday with another triple-bill featuring Caloocan against San Juan at 7 p.m. Manila tackles Laguna at 5 p.m. while host Bacoor tangles with Marikina at 9 p.m.