Nueva Ecija and Iloilo posted contrasting victories on Sunday to barge into the 2021 Chooks-to-Go Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League powered by TM quarterfinals at the SM Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
The Nueva Ecija Rice Vanguards thwarted the San Juan Knights’ final rally to prevail, 88-85, in Group C while the Iloilo United Royals subdued the Caloocan Excellence, 80-69, in Group A.
Mindoro EOG Burlington pulled off a wire-to-wire 87-73 victory over General Santos City, 87-73, but will have to wait for the results of Monday’s final elimination round games to find out whether it qualifies or not in Group D.
Although Mindoro wound up with a 4-1 record, the Tamaraws will be bumped off if the Manila Stars and the Imus Buracai de Laiya Bandera win over Bulacan and Rizal, respectively.
Other results on Sunday saw Basilan Jumbo Medical edge also-ran Laguna Krah Asia, 98-95, and Bacoor City Strikers nip Negros Muscuvados, 87-86.
Basilan improved to 3-0 in the five-team Group B while Bacoor closed its campaign with a 2-3 slate. Laguna dropped to 0-4 and so did Negros, the MPBL’s 32nd and newest team.
The Rice Vanguards led by as many as 18 points and entered the fourth quarter with a 67-54 spread.
The Knights, however, fought back behind Jhonard Clarito and Rhenz Abando and threatened at 84-81 with 30 seconds to go.
Roi Sumang sealed the outcome for Nueva Ecija when he stepped back beyond the arc and canned a jumper off Abando, 87-81.
Despite its first loss in four games, San Juan is also assured of a stint in Tuesday’s sudden-death quarterfinals.
Iloilo, powered by John Mahari’s 16 points, wound up with a 4-1 mark while Caloocan bowed out with a 1-4 record.