Bataan and Nueva Ecija cruised past their rivals while newcomer Quezon Province survived a war on Saturday as they shared the top spot in the OKBet-MPBL (Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League) Fifth Season at the Bataan Peoples Center in Balanga.
The Bataan Risers-Camaya Coast pounded the Bicol Volcanoes into submission, 101-58, while the Nueva Ecija Rice Vanguards turned hot in the fourth quarter and routed the Bacolod City of Smiles, 90-72, for their second straight win in the 29-team league.
The Quezon Huskers played catchup most of the way before subduing the Mindoro Disiplinados, 85-80, in the opener and notching the same card.
Powered by the prolific duo of Yves Sazon and James Castro, the Risers sealed the outcome, 92-46, early in the fourth quarter before Bataan coach Ricky Dandan let his second stringers finish the demolition job.
Sazon, an acknowledged gunner since his stint with the Marikina Shoemasters, fired 20 points, including four triples, grabbed 3 rebounds, issued 2 assists and had 1 steal to earn best player honors.
Castro, Bataan’s perennial go-to-guy, added 14 points and 2 steals as the Risers bettered their performance in a 70-61 victory over Rizal Province in the MPBL inaugurals on March 11.
Other major contributors for Bataan were homegrown Reginald Bilugan and Robbi Darang with 10 points each, Jethro Sombero with 9 and big man Arvie Bringas with 8.
Bicol got 20 points from Kenz Rei Diokno but only Peejay Barua provided support with 11.
Bacolod stayed within sight of Nueva Ecija, 60-67, after three quarters only to crumble in the fourth as the Rice Vanguards turned on the heat and pulled away at 90-65 before relaxing their defense.
Nueva Ecija’s Renz Palma went 7 of 8 on his field goal attempts, including 2 triples, and was named best player at the expense of Will McAloney, who posted 17 points and 7 rebounds for the defending champion which also drew 13 points from Mike Juico.
James Mangahas and Mac Montilla scored 11 each for Bacolod, which slipped to 0-2 like Mindoro and Bicol.
The MPBL goes to the Bacoor City Strikers Gymnasium on Monday with Batangas tackling Valenzuela at 4 p.m., Zamboanga battling Pasay at 6 p.m. and Marikina tangling with Bacoor at 8 p.m.