Top-ranked San Juan-Go for Gold averted an upset, riding the clutch hands of Mike Ayonayon to escape Pampanga-ADG Group, 86-84, to draw first blood in their 2020 Chooks-to-Go MPBL Lakan North semifinals series, Friday at the Filoil Flying V Centre in San Juan.
With the shot clock off, Ayonayon took Travis Thompson on an isolation play, drove to the basket, shot fake, threw up a floater as his shot bounced once at the back iron before bouncing in for the buzzer-beater.
“Designed play yun, wala ng oras eh, last shot, so aatakihin ni Mike, pag nag-double kay Mike, kick out kay John. Eh hindi dinouble si Mike, kaya ginawan na ng paraan ni Mike,” said San Juan head coach Randy Alcantara.
The Knights opened the payoff period on a 13-4 burst, punctuated by John Wilson’s pull-up triple at the 5:39 mark. to build an 11-point margin, 80-69.
But the Giant Lanterns came within two after a Dexter Maiquez freebie, 84-82, with 1:20 left in the match.
With 18.3 ticks remaining, Maiquez trooped back to the line after he was fouled by Jhonard Clarito in a rebound play. Maiquez calmly drained both to knot the game at 84-all.
Wilson led San Juan anew with 21 points, six rebounds, and three steals while Clarito had 15 markers and six boards.
Ayonayon bounced back with 12 points and six rebounds after being held scoreless in their last match against Pasay.
After being ejected in Game Two against the Voyagers, Larry Rodriguez left the game early again, this time after spraining his left foot at the 9:24 mark of the fourth period.
Michael Juico posted 18 points, eight rebounds, and five assists against five turnovers for Pampanga while Levi Hernandez chipped in 15 markers. Maiquez added 13 points and eight boards.
The Knights will aim for a North division finals spot on Wednesday, March 4, at the San Andres Sports Complex in Manila.
San Juan-Go for Gold 86 — Wilson 21, Clarito 15, Wamar 13, Ayonayon 12, Isit 7, Estrella 7, Rodriguez 6, Aquino 3, Bunag 2, Gabawan 0, Victoria 0.
Pampanga-ADG Group 84 — Juico 18, Hernandez 15, Maiquez 13, Muyang 12, Cruz 10, Thompson 6, Apreku 3, Cervantes 3, Alberto 2, Fabian 2.
Quarterscores: 20-20, 50-43, 67-65, 86-84.
Story by Justin Valencia