Nueva Ecija seeks a sweep as Zamboanga Family’s Brand Sardines fights for life in Game 3 of the OKbet-MPBL (Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League) 4th Season Presented by Xtreme National Finals on Friday night at the Mayor Vitaliano Agan Coliseum in Zamboanga City.
The Nueva Ecija Rice Vanguards thwarted the Zamboanguenos, 81-75, in Game 1 and 75-74 in Game 2, both at the Nueva Ecija Coliseum, to move within a win of completing a brilliant run that saw them sweep the elimination round and capture the North division title.
Zamboanga, however, has proven to be no pushover and is sure to pour everything to give joy to the hometown crowd.
The Zamboanguenos have shown their worthiness as South division champions, crumbling only in the last six minutes of Game 1 and simply running out of time to reverse the outcome in Game 2.
Nueva Ecija Coach Jerson Cabiltes wants to complete the (championship) task at hand on Friday and prevent a Game 4 or the full Game 5 of the series.
“Sana (Hopefully),” Cabiltes said before his flight to Zamboanga Thursday morning. “Zamboanga is also strong.”
To achieve their goal, Cabiltes said the Rice Vanguards must not allow the Zamboanguenos “to make another scoring run in the first half” and “take care of the ball much better.”
Cabiltes was referring to the spate of turnovers his wards committed in the homestretch that enabled the Zamboanguenos to stage a final assault.
Nueva Ecija will again rely on MPBL Mythical Team members Will McAloney and Hesed Gabo and standouts Michael Mabulac, Michael Juico, John Bryon Villarias, Jay Collado and Chris Bitoon, who’s regaining his deadly form.
Gabo and Villarias are spearheading Nueva Ecija’s offense in the Finals thus far, averaging 14.5 and 14 points, respectively.
Mabulac is norming 12 points plus 6.5 rebounds, while McAloney is contributing 10 points and 7 rebounds each outing.
Scoreless in Game 1, Juico recovered in Game 2 with 12 points and 9 boards to become the series’ leading rebounder with 10 each game.
Falling short of his goal to steal a game on the road, Zamboanga coach Vic Ycasiano is determined not to give Nueva Ecija the luxury of a sweep.
To do that, Ycasiano will be relying heavily on MPBL All-Star MVP and Mythical Team member Jaycee Marcelino, who is averaging 19 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists and 2 steals thus far.
Support will come from Chris Dumapig (11.5 points, 4.5 rebounds per game), Jhapz Bautista (9 points, 3 rebounds, 2.5 assists per game), Jayvee Marcelino, (9 points, 3.5 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 4 steals per game), Jhaymo Eguilos (5.5 points and 6 rebounds per game) and Chito Jaime who scored 12 points in Game 2 after missing the opener.