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Jerson Cabiltes thinks about MPBL title more than chasing historic streak

Nueva Ecija thinks about winning it all rather than taking new national records. MPBL
By Ivan Saldajeno

PALAYAN—Nueva Ecija set history on Friday night at home by becoming the first team to sweep the MPBL regular season.

However, for Coach Jerson Cabiltes, it's the least of his concerns, especially since the work is not yet done.

"We just swept the eliminations. For us, itong last game is just a win kasi it will be negated if we don't get the championship," Cabiltes told Dugout Philippines after the record-setting 84-72 win against Batangas City at the Nueva Ecija Coliseum here.

He even bared telling the Rice Vanguards that the absolute count begins next week with the start of the postseason.

"Sabi ko nga sa dugout, 'We start counting now. We don't want to count to 21. We count to nine. We still need nine. We need nine more wins," Cabiltes added, pertaining to the number of playoffs wins needed to become national champions.

He also said that he is not even thinking about going for the Philippine record for the longest winning streak in professional basketball.

Now tied with the 1983 Crispa Redmanizers for the second-longest streak, the Rice Vanguards have a chance to match the longest ever, the 1999 Manila Metrostars' 22-game domination.

Cabiltes reiterated that his focus is just on the playoffs, especially since Nueva Ecija still doesn't know which team they will face in the first round, either Caloocan, Marikina, or even Quezon City if the team, currently holding the seventh seed, falters in the end.

"Hindi muna namin iniisip [ang winning streak]. Ang iniintindi namin kung sino muna yung makakalaban namin sa [division] quarterfinals, and we're gonna prepare for it," he further said.

The good thing for Nueva Ecija is that it has the homecourt edge throughout the playoffs, so the team can enjoy playing more games in front of its loyal fans.

A jam-packed crowd witnessed history unfold on Friday night even as some more fans were not accommodated due to the arena's capacity limit.

"The support of the fans was overwhelming talaga. Full-packed talaga. Wala na ngang malakaran o maupuan. Grabe! Just thankful for the fans who came here to watch the game," Cabiltes said.

Based on the MPBL's home-and-away rule for the first two rounds of the playoffs, the Rice Vanguards will host Game 1, which means they can tie the Metrostars for the longest winning streak ever at home.

They will then play the second game of their best-of-three first-round series at the homecourt of the fourth seeds before their scheduled home game, so if possible, the record-breaking moment can happen on the road.

As for the Rice Vanguards' title aspirations, history could be on their side as the Redmanizers and the Metrostars went on to win national championships after their long streaks.

Crispa's PBA record streak was actually a side highlight of its grand slam.

Follow him on Twitter: @IvanSaldajeno

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