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NE survives Bacolod's home scare in triple OT thriller

By Ivan Saldajeno

MANILA—Nueva Ecija was on the brink of being held to its lowest output so far in the MPBL season.

However, as its road game against Bacolod got extended, the team's offense picked up just in time to stay undefeated.

The Rice Vanguards denied the All-Star Ballers a giant slaying to begin their two-game home stand as the former prevailed, 81-74, in a game that ended just past midnight on Tuesday at the University of St. La Salle Gym in the Negros Occidental capital.

Entering the game averaging a league best 94.3 points, Nueva Ecija, playing without suspended coach Jerson Cabiltes, was held to just 49 points with 31.1 seconds left in regulation as Bacolod was on track of scoring a huge upset to the delight of its soldout crowd.

However, Alwyn Alday clipped Byron Villarias while taking a three-pointer, and the latter made all his three free throws to force the first overtime session.

In the first overtime, the Rice Vanguards appeared to be pulling away after answering Edrian Lao's opening basket with five straight points to open a 57-54 lead with 1:11 left.

However, Mark Yee scored a huge three-pointer to extend the game further to a second overtime.

Yee then appeared to have closed out the game for the home team with a shotclock buzzer-beating triple from way out for a 66-62 count with 1:20 remaining.

However, Jay Collado responded with a quick layup and Yee failed to completely seal the Ballers' win with a split from the line, leading to a Villarias three-pointer that sent the game to triple overtime.

Bacolod eventually fizzled in the third extension as Nueva Ecija finally sealed the away win with a 10-2 run in the final 2:23.

Villarias led the Vanguards, who moved up to 9-0 in the standings, with 24 points on five triples, 10 rebounds, two assists, one steal, and two blocks.

Collado added 17 points, six rebounds, and two steals.

Yee finished with 19 markers, 17 boards, two dimes, and two steals for the All-Star Ballers, who fell to 5-3.

Follow him on Twitter: @IvanSaldajeno

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