THE Nueva Ecija Rice Vanguards and the Palayan City Capitals are two of the most active teams in basketball right now.
They are also two of the busiest teams now providing a helping hand to the needy population hardest hit by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
Headed by team owner Bong Cuevas and his wife Mayor Rianne Cuevas of Palayan City, the Rice Vanguards and the Capitals are distributing the Filipinos’ staple food — rice — in Central Luzon and other areas as their main contribution.
The Cuevases also make sure the precious commodity is delivered daily to depressed areas, charitable institutions, and even to companies affected by work stoppage like the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League (MPBL) and Community Basketball Association (CBA) where the Rice Vanguards and Capitals belong.
The Cuevases also donated PPEs (personal protective equipment) to frontliners trying to prevent the spread of the disease.
“Mr. Cuevas and Mayor Rianne commiserate with the people in these trying times,” said Jai Reyes, the Rice Vanguards’ head of basketball operations and main point guard at the same time. “They want to help ease the suffering of the people.”
In basketball, both the Rice Vanguards and the Capitals are also driven to excel in their undertakings.
The Rice Vanguards failed to advance to the MPBL Lakan Season playoffs, but Reyes was already given a free hand to bolster the line-up for next season.
“Championship is the main goal. We want Novo Ecijanos to be proud of us,” said Reyes.
Among the team’s prized acquisitions are Datu Cup MVP Gab Banal of the Bacoor Strikers, brothers Juan and Javi Gomez de Liano of the University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons, former Alaska Milk player Renz Palma and former Muntinlupa cager Edzel Mag-isa.
Palayan City, on the other hand, reached the finals of the CBA Pilipinas against defending champion San Juan.
Handled by coach Alvin Grey and team manager Ryan Ripalda, the Capitals defeated the Knights, 79-74, in the opener of their best-of-three title showdown last Feb. 29.
San Juan, backed by Go for Gold and Navy, evened the series with a 74-66 victory in Game 2 held in Gapan City last March 8.
CBA president Carlo Maceda later declared both the Knights and the Capitals as co-champions due to the government-imposed lockdown.