Nueva Ecija nips Zamboanga, moves a win away from MPBL title

Michael Juico and the Nueva Ecija Rice Vanguards are one win away from the MPBL championship. (

By Leobert Julian A. de la Peña

The Nueva Ecija Rice Vanguards survived Zamboanga Family’s Brand Sardines’ offensive run in the crucial stretch of the final frame, 75-74, to move one win away from an OKbet-Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League (MBPL) championship title.

Thousands of fans flocked to the Nueva Ecija Coliseum in Palayan City to witness their home team go up 2-0 against the star-studded Zamboanga squad last December 5, 2022.

In a game where everybody thought Nueva Ecija would run over Zamboanga after establishing a 69-57 lead in the fourth quarter, the Zamboanga team showed resiliency and trimmed their deficit to just a single digit.

Carrying the offensive load for the Family’s Brand Sardines’ were former PBA stars Jayvee and Jaycee Marcelino who just went unconscious in the last four minutes of action.

The popular twins spearheaded Zamboanga’s 11-0 run in just two minutes which forced the Rice Vanguards to call a much-needed timeout.

Nueva Ecija’s timeout then became one of their best decisions in the last two minutes after putting an emphasis on their defensive lapses which allowed Zamboanga to catch up in the game.

After several successful defensive stops, Nueva Ecija’s offense courtesy of Jay Collado and Michael Juico sealed the deal for them and completely put Zamboanga away in the last minute of the slugfest.

It was all Nueva Ecija from the get-go as their firepower and efficient shooting from the field buried Zamboanga early in the game.

Collado stole the limelight during the Game 2 win and ended up with 13 points and six rebounds including two clutch baskets underneath that answered a Zamboanga flurry at the 3rd-minute mark of the fourth.

Juico continued his steady play for the Rice Vanguards and chipped in 12 points, nine boards, and three steals while veteran big man and former PBA lottery pick Michael Mabulac had 10 points, eight rebounds, four assists, and three steals.

Zamboanga will have the chance to extend the best-of-five series on December 9, 2022, where the Family’s Brand Sardines’ will seek to impress in front of their home fans.