by JUSTIN VALENCIA
NUEVA Ecija snapped its five-game skid after eking out an 85-82 victory against Muntinlupa Monday night in the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League (MPBL) Lakan Cup at Filoil Flying V Centre in San Juan.
Trailing by just a solitary point with 16 ticks left in the game, the Cagers forced Nueva Ecija wingman JR Cawaling to a turnover, but on the other end, Muntinlupa's Ivan Villanueva's pass to Edzel Mag-isa was caught mid-air by Jimbo Aquino with 9.9 seconds left. Aquino then calmly drained two freebies to seal the win.
With a chance to knot the game, Cager Regie Boy Basibas attempted a three-pointer at the buzzer but to no avail as it did not hit the ring.
Marlon Monte had a career-high 23 points to lead Nueva Ecija, who improved to 2-5, while Jerwin Gaco added 12 markers and 13 boards.
Muntinlupa spitfire guards Ryusei Koga and Jamil Ortuoste, who finished with 14 and 19 points, respectively, connived for three-straight triples in the fourth to tie the game at 79-all at the 3:05 mark.
The Angelis Resort-backed Cagers dropped to 3-6.