RONJAY Buenafe canned two free throws in the dying seconds as AICC Manila survived a late San Juan-Go for Gold flurry and eked out a 72-68 victory on Monday night to rule the inaugural FilBasket Subic Championship at the Subic Gym.
After their 13-point lead late in the third quarter was sliced to just two, 70-68, with four seconds to go, Mr. Buenafe was fouled by Paolo Hernandez and calmly drained the two charities to complete the 2-1 series win by the big city cagers.
Michael Mabulac pounded his way to 18 points, eight rebounds and three steals and Chris Bitoon had 13 points and six caroms for Manila, which lost the series opener, 80-74, on Saturday, but bounced back in Game Two with a 74-70 triumph the next day to force the winner-take-all showdown.
Hesed Gabo had 10 points, three boards and six assists in Game Three and was named Finals Most Valuable Player (MVP) after he normed 14.3 points, three rebounds and three assists in the series.
It was Mr. Buenafe, a former Ateneo star, however, who came through with the biggest plays of the game.
Mr. Buenafe buried a booming triple with 52 seconds left in the third quarter to give Manila a 54-41 cushion.
When the Knights came roaring back to cut their deficit to two on a three-pointer by Jhonard Clarito with four ticks remaining, it was again Mr. Buenafe who coolly sank the freebies that sealed the deal.
Simon David Camacho of Medical Depot, meanwhile, was named Conference MVP and part of the Mythical team that also included Thomas Torres of Muntinlupa, Renz Palma of Nueva Ecija, Orlan Wamar of San Juan, and Mr. Mabulac of Manila. — Joey Villar