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Pampanga rips NE in potential MPBL North Finals preview

Another 20-20 for Balti. MPBL (file photo)
By Ivan Saldajeno

MANILA—Pampanga passed its biggest test yet in the ongoing MPBL season.

The Giant Lanterns regained their poise after a rough second quarter to take down defending champions Nueva Ecija Rice Vanguards, 76-64, on Saturday night at the Bren Z. Guiao Convention Center in San Fernando City, Pampanga.

In the potential preview of the North Division Finals, Pampanga quickly recovered in the second half after Nueva Ecija countered its solid start with a second quarter stifling.

With a jampacked home crowd by their side, the Giant Lanterns got things going and led, 24-17 at the end of the first quarter.

The Rice Vanguards, however, held them to just seven points in the second quarter and even took the lead, 33-31, at halftime.

Pampanga recovered after outscoring Nueva Ecija, 25-15, in the third frame and never looked back from there.

Balti Baltazar stomped his class anew with 22 points, 24 rebounds, one assist, two blocks, and four steals for the now 16-0 Giant Lanterns.

Encho Serrano added 15 points, three rebounds, and five assists.

Roi Sumang led the Rice Vanguards, who fell to 14-2, with 15 points, one rebound, and one assist.

Follow him on Twitter: @IvanSaldajeno

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