MPBL: Nueva Ecija gains share of lead; undermanned Batangas wins

MPBL: Nueva Ecija gains share of lead; undermanned Batangas wins
CJ Isit brings the ball down for Batangas.

MANILA, Philippines – Nueva Ecija shared the lead while Batangas showed its depth on Wednesday in the 6th MPBL (Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League) Season elimination round at the Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig.

As expected, the Nueva Ecija Rice Vanguards overpowered the Muntinlupa Cagers, 86-57, in the opener to tally their eighth straight victory and join San Juan and Quezon Province at the helm of the 29-team tournament.

The Batangas City Tanduay Rum Masters, on the other hand, bucked the absence of four key players to subdue the Bataan Risers, 73-69, in the nightcap.

Despite missing Levi Hernandez, Cedrick Ablaza, Jeckster Apinan and MJ Dela Virgen due to various injuries, Batangas still managed to control the tempo of the game and even surged ahead, 51-37, midway through the fourth quarter.

Juneric Baloria, the lone starter left, carried the load for Batangas with 18 points, four rebounds and two assists; while CJ Isit backed him up with 11 points, seven rebounds and six assists.

Other Rum Masters who delivered were Darwin Lunor with nine points and four rebounds; Mark Cruz with eight points; and Kris Porter and John Ambulodto with seven points each.

Bataan dropped to 3-7 despite the 17-point, six-rebound effort of Rhaffy Octobre and the 13-point, five-rebound output of Jeff Santos.

The Risers did not also field Arvie Bringas, Jamil Gabawan and Ronjay Lastimosa.

With 12 players scoring, Nueva Ecija, the 2022 MPBL champion, kept on pounding till the final buzzer where it posted its biggest spread.

John Paul Maguilano paced the Rice Vanguards with 15 points plus six rebounds, followed by JC Cullar with 10 points plus five assists and three rebounds.

Muntinlupa, which tumbled to 2-8, got 14 points, six rebounds and three assists from Alfred Flores; and 10 points each from Joshua Miguel Marcos and Rocky Acidre.

Bulacan, powered by the 34-point explosion of Nino Ibanez and the double-double of Kristan Hernandez, bested Bacolod City, 94-82, to climb to 2-9, a rung above its victim which fell to 1-9.

Hernandez tallied 21 points and 11 rebounds to go with three assists; while Khen Osicos also did his share with 11 points and six rebounds.

The MPBL goes to the WES Arena in Valenzuela on Thursday with games pitting Pasay against Binan at 4 p.m., Rizal against Manila at 6 p.m. and Davao against Valenzuela at 8 p.m.

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