San Juan trounces Makati, clinches MPBL North title
SUBIC FREEPORT ZONE – The San Juan Knights pounced on the undermanned Makati Super Crunch to tally a 131-54 victory and clinch the Chooks-to-Go MPBL Lakan Season North Division crown on Wednesday at the closed-door Subic Bay Gym here.
Showing no traces of rust following a yearlong forced break due to COVID-19, the Go for Gold-backed Knights scored the game's first 16 points and never wavered to seal their series, 2-1, and cruise to the National Finals against either the Davao Occidental Tigers or the Basilan Steel.
Barring any hitches, the Tigers and the Steel will tangle for the South Division title and the right to battle the Knights on March 17.
The Knights of Coach Randy Alcantara also won the series opener last year, 76-60, but the Super Crunch, then in full force under Coach Beaujing Acot, struck back in Game 2, 91-88, before the MPBL went into sabbatical due to the Luzon-wide lockdown imposed by the government because of the pandemic.
Proving they're a well-run organization with former Senator Jinggoy Estrada at the helm, the Knights appeared in the bubble fit and ready to duplicate their MPBL Datu Cup triumph.
The Super Crunch, reduced to five men after the rest of the players and the team management did not come to terms, played with gusto, but to no avail.
They were no match to the Knights, who were led by John Wilson and Jhonard Clarito and even brought along Mike Ayonayon, now with the NLEX Road Warriors of the PBA.
Well-conditioned, Ayonayon wound up with a triple-double 10 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists and was named best player of the game.
Wilson finished with 22 points, four assists and six rebounds, while Clarito contributed 20 points, 13 rebounds and four assists. Orlan Wamar also stood out with 14 points, seven assists and five rebounds.
Edwin Asoro scored 21 points for Makati, followed by Mark Sta. Maria with 14.
Though he was elated by the good showing of his wards, who posted an MPBL record winning margin of 77 points, Alcantara said they will use the extra six days for all the Knights to be even sharper for the Finals. The previous biggest margin was 53 posted by Bacoor against Paranaque.
Though he's officially resigned as coach, Acot gamely handled the Super Crunch, likely for the last time.
Acot, Asoro, Sta. Maria, Carlos Morales, Carlo Lloren and David Carlos and the handful of Super Crunch officials will leave the bubble on Thursday.
The MPBL family, led by COO and founder Sen. Manny Pacquiao and Commissioner Kenneth Duremdes, expressed its gratitude to Department of Health Sec. Francisco Duque, Vince Dizon of the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases , Maria Theresa Escolano, outgoing chair of the IATF Regional Task Force 3, incoming RTF 3 chair Shelby Ruiz, SBMA Chair Wilma Eisma, MPBL Team Governor Cong. Dong Gonzales, and team owners Cong. Claudine Bautista of Davao Occidental, Estrada, Cong. Mujiv Hataman of Basilan, and Cong. Eric Pineda of Makati for making possible the MPBL bubble, which was supported by Nueva Ecija's Bong Cuevas.