MANILA – The Nueva Ecija Rice Vanguards denied the All-Star Bacolod Ballers a giant slaying to begin their two-game home stand as the former prevailed, 81-74, in a Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League triple-overtime thriller that ended just past midnight on Tuesday at the University of St. La Salle Gym in Bacolod City.

Despite a solid defensive performance, Bacolod failed to close out Nueva Ecija, and the latter got its offensive game in the overtime sessions to take the road win.

Entering the game averaging a league best 94.3 points, Nueva Ecija, playing without suspended coach Jerson Cabiltes, was held to just 49 points with 31.1 seconds left in regulation as Bacolod was on track of scoring a huge upset to the delight of its sold-out crowd.

However, Alwyn Alday clipped Byron Villarias while taking a three-pointer, and the latter made all his three free throws to force the first overtime session.

In the first overtime, the Rice Vanguards appeared to be pulling away after answering Edrian Lao's opening basket with five straight points to open a 57-54 lead with 1:11 left.

However, Mark Yee scored a huge three-pointer to extend the game further to a second overtime.

Yee then appeared to have closed out the game for the home team with a shot clock buzzer-beating triple from way out for a 66-62 count with 1:20 remaining.

However, Jay Collado responded with a quick layup and Yee failed to completely seal the Ballers' win with a split from the line, leading to a Villarias three-pointer that sent the game to triple overtime.

Bacolod eventually fizzled in the third extension as Nueva Ecija finally sealed the away win with a 10-2 run in the final 2:23.

Villarias led the Vanguards, who moved up to 9-0 in the standings, with 24 points on five triples, 10 rebounds, two assists, one steal, and two blocks.

Collado added 17 points, six rebounds, and two steals.

In the first game, Zamboanga once again showed resiliency in overtime, edging Valenzuela, 86-82, to remain unbeaten.

Zamboanga showed its might for almost the entire overtime period to hold off a gritty Valenzuela squad poised to go for an upset.

Jaycee Marcelino fired 26 points alongside six rebounds, four assists, one steal, and one block for the now 7-0 Zamboanga squad.

Jeff Comia added 12 points, one rebound, five assists, three steals, and two blocks, while Jayvee Marcelino chipped in 10 points, 10 rebounds, seven assists, and four steals.

Ronjay Buenafe had 18 points, three rebounds, two assists, and one block, while Jaymar Gimpayan had a double-double of 10 points and 15 rebounds with one assist for Valenzuela, which fell to 4-6. (PNA)