NUEVA Ecija showed its maturity and poise in trouncing Zamboanga Family’s Brand Sardines, 69-56, and clinching the the OKbet-MPBL (Maharlika PIlipinas Basketball League) 4th Season presented by Xtreme national title at the Mayor Vitaliano Agan Coliseum in Zamboanga City.
Recovering their bearing from a 65-75 beating in Game 3, the Rice Vanguards struck hard in the second quarter to pull away to stay and cut short the best-of-five series, 3-1.
Held to a 15-15 count after the first 10 minutes, Nueva Ecija greeted the second quarter with 14 straight points, the first 8 by Bryon Villarias, then dropped another 10-point salvo to zoom ahead to the biggest spread of the series, 39-19.
Villarias wound up with 14 points, 10 rebounds and 2 steals to earn best player honors and get the citation as Finals MVP.
Other players who shone for Nueva Ecija Coach Jerson Cabiltes were Michael Juico, who finished with 11 points and 4 rebounds, Michael Mabulac, who ended up with 10 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 steals, and Jonathan Uyloan, who contributed 9 points, all from triples.
A teary-eyed Cabiltes, who won his fifth straight title in different leagues, said he just did what Nueva Ecija team owner Bong Cuevas asked him to do: Bring the championship to Nueva Ecija in Game 4.
Cuevas, Palayan City Mayor Rianne Cueva and other Nueva Ecija bigwigs flew over to Zamboanga to show their support to the Rice Vanguards, who swept the elimination round en route to the North division title and eventually the national title.
All Rice Vanguards were also allowed to bring their families to Zamboanga by the Cuevas family.
Nueva Ecija took the first two games at home, 81-75, and 75-74.
MPBL All-Star and season MVP Jayvee Marcelino tried to inject life back to Zamboanga, but the most the Zamboanguenos, the South division champions, could do was cut the lead a bit at 40-24.
Marcelino tallied 17 points, but no other Zamboanga player could contribute doubles figures with Jhaymo Eguilos, Ralph Tansingco and Cyrus Tabi chipping in 7 each.
The Rice Vanguards were able to broke away by controlling the boards, 59-40, negating poor free throw shooting which saw them make only 7 of 23 attempts for 30.4 percent.
In contrast to their Game 3 triple shooting, when they only made 1 of 19 tries, the Rice Vanguards drilled in six treys, including two by Villarias and one by Taganas, who snared 10 rebounds.
MPBL Commissioner Kenneth Duremdes handed the P14-million trophy to Cuevas during the awarding ceremony held after the game.
MPBL Operations Head Emmer Oreta, League Executive Joe Ramos and Head of Security Rudy Distrito joined Duremdes in giving the Finals MVP trophy to Villarias, who also received a 50-inch Xtreme TV, Coach of Year trophy to Cabiltes and the championship rings to the members of the champion team.
According to Cuevas, he’s going to give all members of the team championship rings as the MPBL allots a total of 22 rings to the national titlists.