MANILA, Philippines – New name, same result: the Nueva Ecija Capitals are Filbasket champs once again.
The Jerson Cabiltes-coached team lifted the Filbasket 2022 Summer Championship trophy after a nail-biting 90-88 overtime win against the San Juan Knights in Game 3 of the finals at the Muntinlupa Sports Center on Sunday, May 8.
“We won because of our experience. It lit a fire in us,” said Mike Juico, who was named Finals MVP off 17 points and 9 rebounds.
San Juaneños CJ Isit and Jhonard Clarito both nailed threes to start overtime, but Hesed Gabo and Juico also converted their inside shots before league MVP Justin Gutang and Juico traded free throw splits to put Nueva Ecija ahead, 90-88, with 12 seconds left.
Orlan Wamar had a shot to tie the game anew for a second overtime, but his close-range attempt missed wildly as the Novo Ecijanos began their celebration.
Nueva Ecija’s core is the same as the AICC-Manila team that won the inaugural Filbasket tournament in the bubble late last year, also in three games versus San Juan. The Knights wanted payback Sunday night after leveling the best-of-three series last Friday, May 6, but they fell short despite 16 points apiece from Gutang and Isit.
San Juan controlled much of the game as the Ecijanos struggled from outside. In the third quarter, the Knights led by as many as nine before a trio of Juico buckets and Will McAloney charities pulled the capitals within one, 46-47.
McAloney had a stellar start to the fourth with 6 points, and when Renz Palma converted an uncontested layup with four minutes to go, the Capitals finally tasted the lead again, 70-69.
The game see-sawed, and with the score knotted at 79-all with six seconds left, the game hung on a play where McAloney crowded Clarito on the sideline, and the ball went out of bounds.
After a lengthy review, the refs awarded possession to the Knights, but they could not score as the game went into overtime.
Gabo played a big role for Nueva Ecija with key baskets in the end of regulation and in OT. His 4 assists led his team, and with fellow point guard Chris Bitoon forced out of the game with an injured hand in the second quarter, his 10 points were also invaluable.
“I’m just so proud of my boys for never giving up,” added coach Cabiltes after the win. “After the second game loss, I couldn’t sleep, and I was just counting the hours to this moment.”
Apart from the title, Nueva Ecija also collected a P1-million prize money from Emedisure Pharmacy.
Nueva Ecija 90 – Juico 17, Mabulac 16, Palma 12, McAloney 12, Gabo 10, Uyloan 9, Collado 8, Balucanag 3, Villarias 3, Bitoon 0, Raymundo 0, Taganas 0, Manalang 0.
San Juan 88 – Gutang 16, Isit 16, Clarito 14, Fuentes 14, Ular 8, Wamar 7, Peralta 5, Bunag 4, Sarangay 2, Acosta 2, Ubalde 0.
Quarters: 17-20, 29-39, 57-61, 79-79 (reg), 90-88 (OT).