MANILA, Philippines – The defending champion Nueva Ecija defeated Paranaque, 91 to 74, on Friday to take the sole lead in the OKBet-Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League (MPBL) at the Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig City.
The unblemished Nueva Ecija Rice Vanguards, who are in the elimination stage of the 29-team competition, moved ahead, 82 to 60, after three quarters, with to contributions from Chris Bitoon, Pamboy Raymundo, Will McAloney, and JR Taganas.
Key players Mike Mabulac, Mike Juico, and Jay Collado were not present, but Bitoon made up for it with 15 points, 13 from Raymundo, and 11 each from McAloney and Taganas.
The powerful Taganas pulled down 11 rebounds to help the Rice Vanguards dominate the boards, 48 to 37, which contributed to 48 points in the paint for them.
Despite Jiolo Razon’s 22 points, Jayboy Solis’ 14 points, and Mark Omega’s 11 points, Paraaque finished the game with a 2 to 7 record.
To defeat the Bulacan Kuyas earlier and snap a three-game losing streak, the Negros Muscovados relied on Robin Rono and Jason Melano.
As Negros improved to 2 to 4, Rono scored all 17 of his points in the second half and Melano contributed nine of his 15 points during that time.
Prior to falling short and falling to 4 to 3, Bulacan had about 35 minutes of game control. Kentoy Segura scored 18 points for the Kuyas, Joseph Gabayni scored 12 points, and Jerick Fabian scored 10.
A third triple-header featuring Iloilo versus Bicol at 4 p.m. and Bacolod against Manila at 6 p.m. will take place on Saturday at the Bataan People’s Center in Balanga. and at 8:00 p.m. Makati plays Bataan.