SAN JUAN Knights edge AICC Manila (80-74) and took a 1-0 lead in FilBasket Championhip Finals. — FILBASKET

SAN Juan-Go for Gold unleashed a big run in the stretch to eke out an 80-74 victory over AICC Manila and move on the verge of emerging the first winner of the FilBasket Subic Championship at the Subic Gym Saturday.

Former pro Larry Rodriguez and Jhonard Clarito helped spark the late breakaway as the Knights took a 1-0 lead or a win away from claiming the crown with another triumph in Game Two at press time.

A decider, if necessary, is set at 6 p.m. tonight.

Down 65-66 early in the fourth quarter, Mr. Rodriguez and Mr. Clarito conspired on a 10-1 blast to turn it into a 75-68 lead with four and a half minutes to go and never relinquished it.

Mr. Rodriguez finished with 10 points and seven rebounds while Mr. Clarito had nine points, 11 boards and three assists for the Knights, who edged the Davao Occidental Tigers, 85-84, in the semis the day before.

Rhenz Abando paced the Knights with 17 points while Orlan Wamar contributed 12 points, five caroms and four dimes.

It also avenged San Juan’s 75-69 loss to Manila in the elimination round last week.

San Juan though almost blew it. Leading by double-digits, 40-29, after the break, San Juan’s offense went south while Manila’s suddenly hummed as the latter seized a 59-58 upper hand coming into the final canto.

Good thing Mr. Rodriguez and Mr. Calrito came in to save the day. — Joey Villar