Iloilo City—What was perceived to be a possible championship preview turned out to be a dominant show by the San Juan Knights at University of San Agustin Gym here.
Using a 26-point second quarter bulge as buffer, the Knights battered the Davao Occidental Tigers, 84-65, Saturday in a showdown between the titans of the Chooks-to-Go/MPBL Lakan Season.
The Knights, the North division pacesetters only allowed the Tigers, the South frontrunners, the luxury of scoring the first five points before going on a scoring binge, capped by back-to-back triples by John Wilson and Jeffrey Tajonera, that propelled them to a 43-17 spread.
The Tigers responded with a 9-point flurry, but Renz Subido and Wamar knocked in a triple each against a triple by Mark Yee and a layup by Marco Balagtas for a 49-31 halftime count.
From there the Tigers could only move to within eight points, 48-56, and the last at 57-65, following a triple by Yvan Ludovice.
Rather than tremble, the Knights became even fiercer, dropping 13 straight points and sealing the outcome, 78-51, going to the last four minutes.
Backed by Go-for-Gold, the Knights climbed to a league-leading 23-3 record and bared their readiness to duplicate their triumph in the MPBL Datu Cup, where they also claimed the Tigers as their victims in the National Finals.
The Cocolife-supported Tigers fell to 21-4, barely ahead of the Bacoor Strikers (21-5) in the South.
According to San Juan coach Randy Alcantara, defense, aggressiveness and team effort were the key to their breezy victory.
While John Wilson remains to be San Juan’s chief gunner, other Knights, particularly guards Orlan Wamar and Renz Subido are responding well to their assigned roles.Wilson celebrated his 33rd birthday by firing 14 points, next only to Wamar’s 15 and ahead of Subido’s 11.
Yee turned in another double-double, 14 points, 14 rebounds, while Ludovice chipped in 14 points for the Tigers, who were hounded by 29 turnovers as against only nine by the Knights.
Aaron Jeruta, proud son of nearby Jaro, drove in with 12 seconds left to lift the Iloilo United Royals past Zamboanga Family’s Brand Sardines, 60-58, in the much-awaited second game.
The Zamboanguenos got the chance to win outright, but Anton Asistio’s 3-pointer was off the mark while Leonard Santillan’s one-hander jumper just touched the rim.
With their 16th win against 10 losses, the Royals displaced the Zamboanguenos (16-11) at fifth spot and virtually assured themselves of a stint in the South playoffs.
It was a stingy defeat for the Zamboanguenos, who led by as many as 12 points, as they fell back in the race for the top four spots which carry with it the homecourt advantage in the playoffs.
Former pro Al Francis Tamsi paced Iloilo with 17 points, followed by Rey Publico with 14 points plus 9 rebounds and Richard Escoto with 13.
Zamboanga got 15 points from Santillan and 14 points plus 8 rebounds and 5 assists from Alvin Pasaol.