THE NEW-LOOK Nueva Ecija squad is off to a flying start in its redemption tour.
For the first time in front of its home fans, Nueva Ecija unveiled its revamped unit and looked like the champion that it was on in pulling off a scintillating comeback win to stay perfect in the Pilipinas Super League (PSL) President’s Cup.
The Capitals, also known as the Rice Vanguards in the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League (MPBL) where they were the former titlists, drew inspiration from the Novo Ecijanos in scoring a 102-91 overtime win against the visiting Davao Occidental Tigers at the Nueva Ecija Coliseum in Palayan City.
Nueva Ecija erased an 11-point deficit in the last two minutes of the regulation before imposing its will in the extra time for a 3-0 record in the PSL with its core of young guns from the Emilio Aguinaldo College (EAC) leading the way.
“Credits to the boys, especially the young ones. We don’t want to lose. The boys showed composure and heart in the end. They played with heart until the final buzzer. Luckily, it’s a miracle victory,” said coach Jerson Cabiltes, also the mentor of EAC in the NCAA, in the big win graced by team owner Bong Cuevas and Palayan City mayor Viandrei Nicole Cuevas. Veteran Will McAloney, with 17 points, joined hands with King Curtiza (10), JP Maguliano (7) and Axel Doromal (5) down the stretch as they clawed back from a 76-87 deficit inside the last two minutes. The quartet was not to be stopped from there on, outscoring Davao in overtime, 15-4, as Nueva Ecija also drew ample support from new players Billy Ray Robles (15) and Robby Celiz (14).
The big home win coincided with the ongoing 58th foundation anniversary of Palayan City, the province’s capital, until today — signaling a new and hopeful beginning for the Capitals moving forward.
“There’s a lot of people here with a passion for basketball. You can see the love of the sports here in Nueva Ecija and hopefully through PSL, we’ll also get more grassroots talents,” said Mr. Cuevas, who personally witnessed the team’s epic comeback win.
On top of the PSL with a 3-0 slate, Nueva Ecija vows no let-up as it is determined to rediscover its championship ways before trying to exact a fitting vengeance in the MPBL next season.
“We still have to adjust. We’re still not satisfied. We need more team chemistry and we want to go all the way. We want to make the playoffs and make it to the top right here. We joined here to compete and win the championship,” beamed Mr. Cabiltes. — John Bryan Ulanday