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Nueva Ecija topples Zamboanga behind solid 2nd half, draws 1st blood in MPBL Finals

By Ivan Saldajeno

PASIG—Nueva Ecija took Game 1 of the MPBL National Finals after tripping Zamboanga, 81-75, on Friday night at the Nueva Ecija Coliseum in Palayan.

Behind a solid second half, Nueva Ecija drew first blood in the best-of-five series, drawing the team to within two wins from the national title.

Down 29-30 at the half, Nueva Ecija erupted for 27 points in the third quarter behind Byron Villarias' solid three-point shooting and Will McAloney's imposing presence inside the paint to go up, 56-48, entering the fourth.

Zamboanga responded with a 10-2 run to open the final frame to tie the game at 58-all with 5:47 remaining, but Nueva Ecija finished the game strong even as Hesed Gabo nailed a dagger three and clutch free throws at the end that helped the team depose its visitor.

Gabo finished with 22 points, six rebounds, and six assists, while Villarias added 19 points, two rebounds, one assist, and two steals to lead Nueva Ecija, which will host Game 2 on Monday night.

Michael Mabulac finished with 14 points and five rebounds, and his last field goal, a layup with 7:55 remaining, made him the 13th member of the league's 1,000 Points Club.

Cris Dumapig made 15 points, going 5-for-5 from the field, and six rebounds for Zamboanga.

Follow him on Twitter: @IvanSaldajeno

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