Nueva Ecija obliterates Laguna to open MPBL title defense

Byron Villarias was all over the floor for the Rice Vanguards. MPBL
By Ivan Saldajeno

MANILA—Nueva Ecija issued a strong statement to the rest of the MPBL field that they are the defending champions after whipping Laguna, 97-70, in their season opener on Monday night at the Star Arena in Baliwag.

Just like much of last season, the Rice Vanguards started the game flat but pulled away in the end to stomp their class over the Heroes.

Down 17-22 after the first quarter, Nueva Ecija erupted for 32 second-quarter points to take a 49-43 halftime lead and then held Laguna to only 27 in the entire second half to seal the blowout.

Byron Villarias led the Rice Vanguards with 17 points, seven rebounds, six assists, and six steals, while Renz Palma added 11 points, two rebounds, and one steal off the bench.

Francis Camacho put up 16 points, two rebounds, and five assists to lead Laguna.

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