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San Juan puts crack on Nueva Ecija's record streak to take MPBL North Finals opener

By Ivan Saldajeno

MANILA—Nueva Ecija is now undefeated no more!

The San Juan Knights finally solved the hard puzzle that is the Rice Vanguards after stunning them on the road, 79-72, in Game 1 of the MPBL Northern Division Finals on Friday night at the Nueva Ecija Coliseum in Palayan.

With the win, San Juan put an end to Nueva Ecija's 25-game winning streak, the longest single-season winning run in Philippine professional basketball.

The Knights turned the tides in the fourth quarter, outscoring the Rice Vanguards, 29-16, to come back from a 50-56 deficit after the first three quarters.

Nueva Ecija slowly climbed back from San Juan's first-quarter blitz but suddenly lost steam in the payoff period as they lost the home-court edge in the best-of-three league semifinal affair.

Michael Calisaan tallied 19 points 13 rebounds, and two steals to lead the Knights, who can now steal the national finals spot away from the Rice Vanguards at home as the series shifts to the FilOil EcoOil Centre in San Juan City for Game 2 on Monday night.

Judel Fuentes added 17 points, seven rebounds, two steals, and one block.

Will McAloney put up 17 points on 5-of-6 field goals, 11 rebounds, three blocks, and one steal off the bench for Nueva Ecija, which is now on the brink of getting eliminated from title contention despite breaking the 22-game streak of the Manila Metrostars in the 1999 MBA season.

McAloney, though, got a consolation prize as a made free throw with 4:21 left in the game made him the 12th player to reach 1,000 MPBL career points.

Follow him on Twitter: @IvanSaldajeno

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