MANILA, Philippines – The fifth season of the OKBet-MPBL (Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League) at the Caloocan Sports Complex saw the defending champions Nueva Ecija, the reigning champs Pampanga, and Batangas, a past champion, all show their might.
In order to maintain their lead over the Pampanga Giant Lanterns, who defeated the Oriental Mindoro Disiplinados by a score of 91 to 70, the Nueva Ecija Rice Vanguards successfully repelled the last-ditch attacks from the GenSan Warriors to win 97 to 93.
The Caloocan Batang Kankaloo were defeated by the Batang Chill Athletics of Batangas City in the nightcap, 80 to 67, demonstrating their superiority. Following only the dormant Bacoor Strikers in the 29-team tournament, this victory catapulted them to second place in the South division.
The final threat from GenSan came at 84–85 following a triple by Mark Cruz. GenSan presented a threat twice. However, Byron Villarias of Nueva Ecija answered with a triple, and with only 40 seconds remaining, Michael Mabulac scored beneath. Following Pampanga (22 to 2) in the North division, this helped the Rice Vanguards earn their 20th victory against four defeats.
Will McAloney, who had 14 points and 11 rebounds for Nueva Ecija, was second with 14 points and was followed by Jonathan Uyloan, who had 14, Mabulac, who had 13 points and 5 rebounds, Roi Sumang, who had 12, and Villarias, who had 12 points, 5 assists, 5 rebounds, and 5 steals. 10 points and 7 rebounds from Michael Juico were also helpful.
Kyt Jimenez stood out for GenSan in a closely contested game, producing 17 points, 7 rebounds, and 4 assists. Larry Rodriguez, who recorded 16 points, 8 rebounds, and 8 assists while demonstrating his versatility on the court, provided him with strong support. John Wilson, Cruz, and Enzo Joson all contributed 14 points, which helped GenSan perform better thanks to their outstanding scoring abilities.
While Nueva Ecija and GenSan were playing each other, neither team was able to build a lead larger than seven points. The heated on-court battles revealed the grit and talent of both sides and produced an enthralling exhibition of basketball skills.
Batangas had to contend with a tenacious foe who put up a valiant battle in Caloocan. But Juneric Baloria and Jeckster Apinas’ combined efforts were crucial for Batangas, enabling them to eventually gain the upper hand and secure their 18th triumph. Despite their best efforts, Caloocan lost for the fifth time this season after falling short of Batangas’ impressive performance.
Jeckster Apinas demonstrated his skill across the board by collecting 10 points, 19 rebounds, and 5 assists. Meanwhile, Juneric Baloria’s 17 points, 11 of which came in the vital second half, underlined his significant contribution to Batangas’ victory. Ochea’s persistence played a major role in Batangas’ dominance of the rebounding competition, as they secured 55 rebounds as opposed to Caloocan’s 45. Ochea’s double-double of 12 rebounds and 10 points highlighted his impact on the field from both ends.
Reil Cervantes of Caloocan displayed his scoring skill with 14 points, and his teammates Mac Baracael and Paul Sanga chipped in with 11 and 10 points, respectively. Caloocan’s current overall record of 17 to 8 demonstrates their commitment and toughness throughout the season. These outstanding individual and team efforts continue to change the league’s face as the competition progresses.