AICC Manila built a lead big enough to stave off a late rally from the San Juan Knights – Go For Gold, 72-68, in their winner-take-all duel for the first Filbasket title at the Subic Bay Gymnasium on Monday, November 22.
Buried by as many as 13 points in the fourth quarter, San Juan narrowed the gap to a single possession with five seconds left only to witness Manila hold on to the win in the rubber match of the best-of-three series.
Former PBA player Ronjay Buenafe secured the championship for Manila by calmly sinking his two free throws with 2.4 ticks remaining.
The Knights pulled out all the stops for their last-gasp comeback, unloading a 21-8 run anchored on three-pointers from Rhenz Abando, Orlan Wamar, and Jhonard Clarito to cut their deficit to 68-70.
But that was the closest San Juan got as Buenafe made it a two-possession cushion for Manila, completely shutting the door on the Knights.
Michael Mabulac topscored for Manila with 18 points, 8 rebounds, and 3 steals, while Chris Bitoon delivered 13 points and 6 rebounds.
Crowned the Finals MVP, Hesed Gabo tallied 10 points, 6 assists, and 2 rebounds in the do-or-die match as Manila completed its finals fightback after dropping the series opener.
Jesse Collado added 9 points and 7 rebounds, while Buenafe chimed in 8 points in the victory.
Abando led the way in the loss with 17 points and 4 rebounds.
Manila 72 - Mabulac 18, Bitoon 13, Gabo 10, Collado 9, Buenafe 8, Juico 5, Taganas 4, Balucanag 3, Uyloan 2, Eguilos 0, Manalang 0, Siruma 0, Bringas 0, Ramirez.
San Juan 68 - Abando 17, Clarito 11, Ular 10, Wamar 10, Calma 8, Hernandez 5, Nocum 5, Abundo 0, Rodriguez 0, Lacap 0, Buñag 0, Orbeta 0.
Quarters: 20-17, 36-31, 54-43, 72-68.
Delfin Dioquino dreamt of being a PBA player, but he did not have the skills to make it. So he pursued the next best thing to being an athlete – to write about them. He took up journalism at the University of Santo Tomas and joined Rappler as soon as he graduated in 2017.