The Nueva Ecija Rice Vanguards hit their target late in the fourth at the Nueva Ecija Coliseum, shooting down the Pasig Voyagers to tally an 85-81 victory on Monday and move within a win of advancing to the semifinal round of the MPBL Fifth Season.
However, they faced a challenging situation at the start of the second half, struggling to find their rhythm and falling behind by a significant margin, 44-59. This putNueva Ecija Coach Jerson Cabiltes concerned about their performance.
But the tide began to turn as Michael Mabulac and Chris Bitoon stepped up for the Rice Vanguards, for a combined 17 crucial points in the third quarter, compared to just a single three-pointer from the Voyagers. This remarkable effort narrowed the gap to a mere 61-62 by the end of the third .
The final quarter was Bitoon’s time to shine. With the assistance from John Bryon Villarias and Renz Palma, Nueva Ecija seized control of the game, extending their lead to 79-66 with just five minutes and 44 seconds remaining. As the clock ticked down to 52 seconds, and the score reached 85-75, Nueva Ecija made a strategic substitution, allowing their second-string players to put the final nail in the coffin.
Bitoon led the charge with 18 points, including an impressive ten points in the fourth quarter.He also had four assists, earning him the title of the game’s best player. Mabulac added a significant 16 points and an impressive game-high 15 rebounds;Palma added 14 points and 10 boards, while Villarias chipped in with 10 points.
Despite the Rice Vanguards’ efforts, the Pasay Voyagers put up a valiant fight, with Brian Hilario scoring back-to-back baskets late in the game, forcing Coach Cabiltes to reintroduce his starters with just 28 seconds left on the clock. Nevertheless, Pasay’s Warren Sienes managed to score a bucket but missed the accompanying free throw, resulting in the final score.
Next Schedule of MPBL Playoffs: Batangas City Coliseum.
- GenSan versus Muntinlupa at 6 pm
- Imus versus Batangas at 8 p.m..
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