MANILA, Philippines – In the MPBL match between Nueva Ecija and Muntinlupa at the Bren Guiao Convention Center in San Fernando, Pampanga, Chris Bitoon was a crucial player for Nueva Ecija.
At the Bren Guiao Convention Center in San Fernando, Pampanga, on Friday during the fifth season of the OKBet-Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League (MPBL), the pacesetting Nueva Ecija Rice Vanguards defeated the tenacious Muntinlupa Cagers 71-65.
In order to defeat Muntinlupa and extend its unbeaten streak to nine games in the elimination stage of the 29-team competition, Nueva Ecija needed the combined efforts of Will McAloney, Chris Bitoon, and Jay Collado.
McAloney finished the close game with 18 points and 14 rebounds despite 11 ties and 9 lead changes.
Only John Anthony Amores scored in double figures for Muntinlupa, scoring 19 points and pulling down nine rebounds, dropping them to a 6-4 record.
For Nueva Ecija, who made 16 out of 18 free throw attempts and had an impressive accuracy rate of 88.9 percent, free throw accuracy proved to be a critical component. For the Rice Vanguards, McAloney went 6-for-6 and Jonathan Uyloan went 4-for-4 from the 15-foot line.
Muntinlupa made only 12 of its 19 free throw attempts for a 63.2 percent success rate. Earlier, the Valenzuela XUR Homes Realty Inc. put up a valiant fightback, but the Iloilo United Royals held them off to win 82-79 and go to 4-5.
At 24-41 down, Valenzuela recovered behind a 14-point performance from Michael Macion to take the lead at 53-51 with a few minutes remaining in the third quarter.
To give the Valenzuelans their eighth loss against a single win, the United Royals, on the other side, maintained their composure and replied behind Justine Sanchez and Lorenzo Navarro.
For Iloilo, Sanchez had a final line of 26 points, 14 rebounds, three assists, three steals, and two blocks. Navarro scored eight points and 11 assists, while Tony Ynot had 19 points, three assists, and three rebounds.
Macion had 27 points and 12 rebounds for Valenzuela, and native Allan Richard Martin contributed 13 points.