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PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF MPBL Mark Tallo lends a big hand in Abra’s 83-75 victory over fellow newcomer Pangasinan in the MPBL Sixth Season over the weekend in Calasiao, Pangasinan.

CALASIAO, Pangasinan — A pair of action-packed games marked the return of the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League (MPBL) Sixth Season over the weekend, leaving league founder Manny Pacquiao looking forward to nine months of intense playmaking and brilliant shotmaking by the 30 squads taking part.

“MPBL fans are not only knowledgeable about the game but they are intensely loyal to their mother teams,” Pacquiao said during the inaugurals of the cagefest held Saturday at the packed Calasiao Sports Complex.

Pacquiao watched the opener featuring Zamboanga and Valenzuela and stayed on until the centerpiece game involving newcomers Pangasinan and Abra was over.

Nicknamed the Weavers, Abra turned to John Lloyd Clemente in beating Pangasinan, 83-75.

With Abra trailing, 70-71, Clemente, plucked from powerhouse Pampanga, came up with eight points, including two triples sandwiching a layup, to push the Weavers ahead for good, 78-70, with two minutes and nine seconds remaining.

Sensing the impending defeat, Hesed Gabo and Ian Melencio attempted to bail out Pangasinan with back-to-back baskets, but former 3×3 standout Mark Tallo of Abra quelled the uprising with a trey going into the last 43 seconds.

Tallo emerged with 14 points, eight rebounds, seven assists and two steals to lead the Weavers of coach Jonathan Banal.

The 6-foot-3 penetrator also received ample support from Clemente with 12 points, Prince Caperal with 10, all in the first half; Michael Canete with nine points, National Collegiate Athletic Association Season 99 Most Valuable Player Clint Escamis with eight points, five rebounds and three assists; and Wendelino Comboy with eight points.

Conmboy’s back-to-back triples, followed by a Tallo layup pushed Abra ahead, 70-64, before Pangasinan countered with seven straight points to briefly hold the edge, 71-70, with four minutes and 25 seconds left.

It was during this time Clemente took matters into his own hands with his endgame outburst.

Pangasinan got a game-high 26 points, plus five assists and four rebounds from Gabo, who reunited with Jerson Cabiltes, his former mentor with the 2022 MPBL champion Nueva Ecija, to head the Heatwaves, who got 12 points, five rebounds and four assists from Ian Melencio, 10 points and nine rebounds from Michael Mabulac and nine points plus three rebounds from Ed Daquioag.

In the opener, Zamboanga needed an extra five minutes to clip the ramped-up Valenzuela squad, 82-76.

Renzo Subido delivered for Zamboanga coach Louie Alas in overtime with five points to preserve the heroics of former MVP Jaycee Marcelino, who exploded for 26 points and eight rebounds.

Valenzuela got 24 points from Dennis Santos, 12 from Orin Catacutan and 10 from Valandre Chauca.

The MPBL goes to the Kamalig Coliseum in Orion, Bataan, on Monday with a three-game offering pitting Bicol against Mindoro at 4 p.m., Marikina against Negros at 6 p.m., and Sarangani against Bataan at 8 p.m.

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