Nueva Ecija Rice Vanguards, one of the few teams in the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League that has a traveling support group, hardly felt like the away team at the Olivarez College Gym in Parañaque City on Wednesday evening.
With their playoff hopes, the Vanguards also ensured that the nearly 500 fans who filled the seven buses that had traveled from Palayan City returned home with a win.
"Even if we play against the home team, we don't feel uncomfortable because our fans are there too," said Nueva Ecija striker Zags Gonzaga after collecting 21 points to give the Vanguards an 85: 81- To win over hosts Parañaque Patriots in the Chooks to Go MPBL Lakan Season.
“It's great to see our fans there all the time. We feel the whole province behind us in every game. "
The Mayor of Palayan, Rianne Cuevas, the wife of team owner Bong Cuevas, helped organize the transportation of the Vanguard followers.
And even if the team is still near the north with a 6-16 record, the Vanguards know that success will come sometime as long as the team continues to develop their identity under coach Charles Tiu.
"We want to build a community and work to make our team sustainable," said guard Jai Reyes, who also oversees the team's basketball operations. Against the patriots, the Vanguards needed a strong finishing kick, anchored to Gonzaga and James Martinez, who had eight points in the last quarter after barely seeing anything in the second and third periods.
Tiu was full of praise for Gonzaga, whom he described as the toughest worker in the team.
"Nobody can complain about his attitude and work ethic and he works so hard that it is very nice to see him play well," said Tiu von Gonzaga, who won five UAAP titles with Ateneo.
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