New Comers Quezon Huskers and Negros Muscovados test their mettle when they clash in the nightcap of a doubleheader kicking off the OKBet-MPBL (Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League) Fifth Season on Saturday at the Quezon Convention Center in Lucena City.
The Bataan Risers and the Rizal Golden Coolers opened up hostilities at 6 p.m., to be followed by the Quezon-Negros tussle at 8 p.m.
Bent on making ripples on their first year in the country’s biggest regional league, the Huskers will be fielding a strong roster led by reigning NCAA MVP Will Gozum, Jeric Teng and Mark Pangilinan.
The Muscovados, who have built their team earlier than the host squad, hope to draw power from Paolo Javelona and Jason Melano in their first official game in the 30-team league founded by Manny Pacquiao.
Bataan has also strengthened its lineup with the acquisition of Yves Sazon and Jamil Gabawan while Rizal remains solid with a squad led by former national player Troy Mallillin.
The opening ceremonies, including the parade of the competing teams and their muses, start at 4 p.m.
Aside from Pacquiao, expected to grace the occasion are Quezon Huskers co-owners Rep. Keith Micah Tan and San Andres Mayor Ralph Edward Lim and Quezon Gov. Helen Tan.
Also in attendance will be MPBL Commissioner Kenneth Duremdes and officials of title sponsor OKBet.
The teams, including powerhouses Nueva Ecija and Zamboanga, have been split into the North and South divisions for this season which will wind up in December.
Joining Nueva Ecija, the reigning national champion, in the North division are Bataan, Bulacan, Caloocan, Makati, Manila, Marikina, Pampanga, Paranaque, Pasay, Pasig, Quezon City, Rizal, San Juan and Valenzuela.
Zamboanga, which topped last month’s MPBL Preseason Invitational held in General Santos City, heads the South division also composed of Bacolod, Bacoor, Batangas, Cebu, Bicol, GenSan, Iloilo, Imus, Laguna, Mindoro, Muntinlupa, Negros, Quezon and Sarangani.
Out to challenge the supremacy of Nueva Ecija and Zamboanga are Batangas, Pampanga, Bacoor, Imus, GenSan and Makati.
The MPBL goes to the Baliwag Star Arena on March 13 with a triple-bill featuring the Quezon City-Bicol encounter at 4 p.m., the Nueva Ecija-Laguna tussle at 6 p.m. and the Sarangani-Bulacan collision at 8 p.m.