MINDANAO, Philippines – At the Mayor Vitaliano Agan Coliseum in Zamboanga City, Nueva Ecija defeated Zamboanga Family’s Brand Sardines, 69 to 56, and won the OKbet-MPBL (Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League) 4th Season Presented by Xtreme national championship.
The Rice Vanguards, who had lost Game 3 65 to 75, came back strongly in the second quarter to take the lead, maintain it, and end the best-of–five series with a 3 to –1 victory.
Nueva Ecija, which had been tied 15 to 15 after the first 10 minutes, opened the second quarter with 14 straight points, the first eight of which came from Byron Villarias. They then scored 10 more points in a row to increase their lead to the largest margin of victory in the series, 39 to 19.
With 14 points, 10 rebounds, and two steals in the end, Villarias was named MVP of the Finals in addition to receiving best player accolades.
Other standout performers for Nueva Ecija Coach included Michael Juico, who had 11 points and four rebounds, Michael Mabulac, who had 10 points, eight rebounds, four assists, and two steals, and Jonathan Uyloan, who scored nine points entirely on three-pointers.
Cabiltes, who claimed his sixth consecutive championship across various leagues, expressed his gratitude for having accomplished what team owner Bong Cuevas had requested him to do: bring the championship to Nueva Ecija.
To support the Rice Vanguards, who swept the elimination phase on way to winning the North division title and ultimately the national crown, Cuevas, Palayan City Mayor Rianne Cuevas, and other prominent Nueva Ecija figures travelled over to Zamboanga.
The opening two games were won by Nueva Ecija at home, 81 to 75 and 75 to 74 respectively.
Zamboanga attempted to regain momentum with MPBL All-Star and season MVP Jayvee Marcelino, but the South division champion Zamboanguenos could only manage to narrow the margin to 40 to 24.
With Jhaymo Eguilos, Ralph Tansingco, and Cyrus Tabi each scoring seven points, Marcelino led all Zamboanga players with 17 points. No other player could score in double figures.
The Rice Vanguards were able to pull away by dominating the boards, 59 to 40, making up for their subpar free throw shooting, which saw them convert on just 7 of 23 tries for a 30.4 percent success rate.
The Rice Vanguards made six treys, including two by Villarias and one by Taganas, who grabbed 10 rebounds, in contrast to their 1 of 19 attempts in Game 3 when they attempted triples.
Cuevas received the P14-million trophy from MPBL Commissioner Kenneth Duremdes at the post-game celebration.
Along with Duremdes, MPBL Operations Head Emmer Oreta, League Executive Joe Ramos, and Head of Security Rudy Distrito presented Villarias with the Finals MVP trophy, Cabiltes with the Coach of the Year trophy, and the 22 championship rings to the Rice Vanguards’ winning team.