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MPBL: San Juan subdues Makati in 2 OTs, forges semis clash with Nueva Ecija


San Juan went through two overtimes to subdue Makati, 95-92, on Monday, setting up a semifinal matchup with Nueva Ecija in the MPBL (Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League) Fifth Season at the Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig.

The San Juan Knights relied on a clutch triple by Orlan Wamar with a minute and three seconds left to take a 95-90 lead in the second extension.

Emman Calo made two free throws to bring Makati within 95-92, but JC Cullar missed a potential game-tying three-pointer with six seconds remaining, closing the playoffs door on the OKBet Kings with a 2-0 sweep of their best-of-three quarterfinal series.

While the Knights had to dig deep against the Kings, the Nueva Ecija Rice Vanguards had little trouble disposing of the Payay Voyagers, 71-62, earlier for a similar 2-0 quarterfinals score.

San Juan Coach Randy Alcantara attributed the victory to heart, as neither team wanted to lose in the highly physical encounter. In the end, the younger and fresher legs of the Knights, notably Wamar, Adrian Nocum, Marwin Taywan, Nikko Panganiban, Rhinwill Yambing, Egie Boy Mojica, and Zach Huang, prevailed over the veteran-laden Kings.

Nocum finished with 22 points, nine rebounds, and three steals, while Wamar received his second-straight best player award with 16 points, seven assists, six rebounds, and three steals.

Michael Calisaan contributed 14 points and eight rebounds, Taywan added 13 points and six rebounds, Panganiban chipped in 11 points and six rebounds, and Huang recorded 10 points and 12 rebounds.

San Juan led by as many as 19-34 midway through the second quarter, but Makati fought back to cut the deficit to 40-37 at halftime. Panganiban drove in with 18 seconds to go, sending the game into overtime, with a score of 75-75. Makati’s Billy Robles forced the second overtime with a basket, making it 86-86.

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Makati, which also fell to San Juan, 84-95, in Game 1, received 24 points, 11 rebounds, six assists, and two blocks from Robbie Celiz; 24 points, nine rebounds, and seven assists from Emman Calo; and 19 points, 12 rebounds, and six assists from Billy Robles.

Nueva Ecija, the defending champion and highly favored, had only Chris Bitoon in double digits with 16 points but controlled the tempo after just two quarters, leading 38-25, to improve on its come-from-behind 85-81 victory in Game 1.

Michael Juico wound up with nine points, followed by Roi Sumang and Byron Villarias with eight points each.

Pasay got 16 points and 6 rebounds from Bryan Wendel Hilario, 11 from Achie Inigo and 10 points, plus 12 rebounds from Dhon Reverente.

Nueva Ecija Coach Jerson Cabiltes stayed behind to watch the San Juan-Makati encounter to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the Knights.

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