Nueva Ecija grabs share of MPBL lead; Valenzuela, Muntinlupa triumph

Nueva Ecija grabs share of MPBL lead; Valenzuela, Muntinlupa triumph
Nueva Ecija's Billy Robles goes through the Bacolod defense.

MANILA, Philippines – Nueva Ecija shared the lead while Valenzuela gained trained traction in the 6th MPBL (Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League) Season elimination round on Thursday at the WES Arena in Valenzuela City.

Showing depth and cohesion, the Nueva Ecija Rice Vanguards routed Bacolod City of Smiles, 95-77, to raise its record to 7-0 and join the San Juan Knights and the Quezon Huskers at the top of the 29-team tournament.

Playing at their home court for the first time this year, the Valenzuela Classics trounced the Bulacan Kuyas, 98-70, and climbed to 6-4 in the standings.

All 14 Rice Vanguards fielded in scored as the Vanguards, the 2022 MPBL champions, led by as far as 90-68 and were never threatened by the Bacolenos, who dropped to 1-8.

Billy Robles paced Nueva Ecija with 19 points, seven rebounds, three assists, two steals and one block; followed by JB Bahio, who posted 11 points, 12 rebounds plus four assists; and Rob Celiz with 11 points, six rebounds, three assists and two blocks.

Bacolod got 14 points from Jacob Galicia and 12 from Danny Marilao.

It was the same story for Valenzuela, which stormed ahead, 98-68, through the efforts of Ryan Trazona, Michael Angelo Macion and Fil-Am CJ Payawal.

Trazona tallied 16 points, spiked by 3 triples; Macion posted 13 points plus six rebounds; and Payawal chalked 13 points, 14 rebounds, four assists and two steals.

Homegrown Jameson Hiro and Darell Manliguez chipped in eight points each for the Classics.

Bulacan skidded to 1-9 despite the 32-point, seven-rebound, seven-assist effort of former Valenzuela star Paolo Hubalde and the 11-point contribution of Ralph Manzo.

In the opener, Muntinlupa bunched 11 points in the third quarter to subdue Sarangani, 75-71, and catch up with its victim at 2-7.

The Muntinlupa Cagers surged ahead, 67-51, and used it as a buffer to weather the Marlins' final assault.

Jaspar Derek Cuevas led the Cagers with 14 points, four rebounds, six assists and three steals; followed by Errol Jay Bongay with 12 points and six rebounds.

Sarangani got 27 points and five rebounds from Ryan Sual; 10 points, 12 rebounds, four steals and three blocks from King Destacamento; and 11 points, eight rebounds plus three assists from Jomar Madayag.

Apart from yielding the boards, 46-61, the Marlins were hounded by poor free throw shooting, sinking only 14-of-29 attempts as against 18-of-28 for the Cagers.

The MPBL returns to the Alonte Sports Arena in Binan, Laguna on Friday, with Pangasinan facing Davao at 4 p.m., Rizal battling Bataan at 6 p.m., and Manila tackling Binan at 8 p.m.

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