MAKATI-SUPER Crunch survived a late surge from North leader San Juan-Go For Gold, 91-88, in a game that was held in closed doors to forge a decider in the 2020 Chooks-to-Go Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League Lakan North Division Finals, Wednesday, at the FilOil Flying V Centre.
With San Juan down by 10 points, the quartet of Jhonard Clarito, Art Aquino, Orlan Wamar, and CJ Isit stepped up for the defending champions, putting up a 9-3 blast to trim the lead to just two, 87-89, with 20 ticks left to play.
Joseph Sedurifa, though, showed nerves of steel from the line to give Makati a slim four-point lead with 14 seconds remaining.
Lawrence Victoria then went for a split from the line, giving John Wilson one last chance to send the game to overtime. However, Wilson muffed his three-point attempt as the Knights suffered their first defeat at home.
“We talked to each other na we’ve been in this situation before, na our backs are against the wall. Kailangan bumalik tayo sa sistema natin, at siyempre, ‘yung depensa,” said Makati head coach Beaujing Acot.
Jeckster Apinan spearheaded Makati’s fight back, posting a near triple-double of 20 points, 12 rebounds, seven assists, along with two steals and a block.
Jong Baloria, meanwhile, poured 10 of his 18 points in the final period.
Sedurifa stuffed the stat sheet with 16 points, six rebounds, six assists, four steals, and three blocks while Joshua Torralba pumped in 14 markers.
Cedrick Ablaza, who rolled his right ankle in the third period, finished with 13 points and seven boards.
Makati was supposed to play on its home turf for Game Two, but had to surrender the advantage after failing to secure a venue.
However, the Super Crunch-backed squad enjoyed an almost neutral venue as fans were barred from entering the venue as a precaution from the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak.
“Actually sabi nga namin, God closes a door, he opens a window. Bawal yung court sa Makati, pero binigyan niya kami ng window of opportunity na maging closed doors,” Acot explained.
“So naging advantage sa amin ‘yun, walang home crowds both teams so it’s just really just a five-on-five basketball,” he added.
Wilson, who fired 17 points in the first half, was limited to just four the rest of the game, ending up with 21 points, five rebounds, and two assists.
Isit and Andoy Estrella were the two bright spots for the Knights with 17 points apiece while Clarito scored 12 points — all in the fourth period — and grabbed 11 rebounds in San Juan’s first home loss of the season.
Game Three of the North Finals, originally set for March 14, however, has been deferred to a still-to-be-determined date by the league on Thursday night. This is to safeguard the welfare of fans, players, officials and league staff against the threat of COVID-19.