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MPBL: Nueva Ecija heats up in 2nd half, deflates Bacolod

Renz Palma sparked Nueva Ecija Rice Vanguards’ second quarter uprising against Bacolod City of Smiles. MPBL (file photo)
By Stewart Tan

MANILA--Nueva Ecija overcame a jittery start to defeat Bacolod, 90-72, in the 2023 Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League on Saturday night at the Bataan People’s Center.

Will McAloney top-scored with 17 points, while Renz Palma and Michael Juico added 16 and 13 markers, respectively, as the defending champions Rice Vanguards cruised to a 2-0 start.

The Bacolodnons cruised to a 24-13 start behind early hits from Domark Matillano, Mac Montilla and Justine Alano but the pressing defense of the Rice Vanguards allowed them to cut the deficit to 23-27.

Bacolod widened the lead anew to double digits at 33-23 in the second quarter via back-to-back jumpers by Coy Alves but the Rice Vanguards relied on consecutive hits by Emil Renz Palma to make it 30-33.

Bacolod were still up 43-42 at the half, but Nueva Ecija turned things around in the third canto behind Bobby Balucanag, Juico and Palma as they surged to a 67-60 advantage heading into the final quarter.

Nueva Ecija then held Bacolod scoreless for the first four minutes of the final quarter as they increased the lead further to 76-61 behind connections by McAloney and free throws by Balucanag before its reached its largest at 22 points.

Montilla and James Mangahas were the bright spots for the Bacolodnons with 11 markers apiece as they slumped to 0-2 record after suffering their second straight come-from-behind defeat.

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