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Nueva Ecija nears MPBL North semis berth

Defending champion Nueva Ecija moved on the cusp of a semifinal berth in the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League (MPBL) North Division.

This, after the Rice Vanguards turned back the Pasay Voyagers, 85-81, in Game One of their best-of-3 quarterfinals series at the Nueva Ecija Coliseum late Monday night, October 9.

Nueva Ecija’s Jonathan Uyloan PHOTO FROM NUEVA ECIJA RICE VANGUARDS FB

Chris Bitoon pumped in 18 points, four assists, and three steals to lead Nueva Ecija which came back from a 15-point deficit much to the delight of the home crowd.

Michael Mabulac provided the muscle down low for the Rice Vanguards, uncorking a double-double of 16 points, 15 rebounds, and two assists.

Renz Palma chipped in 14 markers and five boards as Byron Villarias added 10 points and two assists in the highly-physical contest.

“[What I told them for us to come back] is no. 1, we need to play much harder, we need to play aggressive defense and we need to move the ball and plan our offense,” said Nueva Ecija head coach Jerson Cabiltes.

“Our execution in the first half, going to the third quarter was a bit flat and bad. We adjusted well and played tough defense from the latter part of the third going to the fourth.”

Tied at 40 entering the second half, the seventh seed Pasay surged with a 19-4 run capped by a Dhon Reverente triple at the 5:41 mark of the third frame to take a 59-44 advantage.

The second seed Rice Vanguards, however, unleashed a massive 30-5 run punctuated by Bitoon's layup for a 74-64 cushion with 6:58 left in the final frame. The defending champs took control for the remainder of the game, doing just enough to keep the visitors at bay.

Reverente gathered a double-double of 20 points and 13 rebounds as Elvin Chan backstopped him 15 points, four assists, and three rebounds.

Brian Hilaro turned in 15 points and three boards.

Game Two is set on Monday, October 16.

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Credit belongs to : www.manilatimes.net

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