The Davao Occidental Tigers drew first blood against the San Juan Knights in the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League (MPBL) National Finals with a 77-75 overtime win in Subic on Wednesday, March 17.
Down by as many as 8 points with 3 minutes left in regulation, Davao Occidental forged an extra period and got things done in overtime to go up 1-0 in the best-of-five series.
Mark Yee came through in the final 20 seconds and finished with 15 points, 8 rebounds, and 4 steals as Davao Occidental, back in the finals for the second straight season, stunned defending champion San Juan.
The Tigers trailed 74-75 with less than 50 seconds left before Yee stole the ball from an errant John Wilson pass and converted two free throws for a 76-75 lead with 18 ticks left.
San Juan had ample time to regain the upper hand but reigning Finals MVP Mike Ayonayon saw his running jumper blocked by Billy Ray Robles, with Yee hauling down the rebound.
Yee then iced the game with another foul shot as Eman Calo secured the win for Davao Occidental with a steal as time expired.
Calo also chalked up 15 points on top of 5 rebounds and 4 assists, Bonbon Custodio added 12 points and 3 assists, while Kenneth Mocon chipped in 9 points, 6 rebounds, and 2 steals in the victory.
Robles pumped in 9 points, 11 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 blocks.
The win put to waste a 27-point masterpiece from Ayonayon, who also had 5 assists, 3 rebounds, and 2 blocks for San Juan.
Winning looked bleak for the Tigers after the Knights seized a 68-60 off an Ayonayon triple with 2:30 minutes left in the 4th quarter.
However, Custodio drained a three-pointer of his own to spark an 8-0 run Davao Occidental used to drag San Juan to an extra period.
Wilson backstopped Ayonayon with 15 points, 7 rebounds, 5 steals, and 2 blocks, while Larry Rodriguez had 9 points, 10 rebounds, and 3 blocks.
Jhonard Clarito put up 9 points, 11 rebounds, and 2 blocks in the loss.
Davao Occidental 77 – Yee 15, Calo 15, Custodio 12, Mocon 9, Robles 9, Balagtas 6, Terso 5, Saldua 2, Ludovice 2, Gaco 2, Albo 0.
San Juan 75 – Ayonayon 27, Wilson 15, Rodriguez 9, Clarito 9, Isit 4, Tajonera 3, Reyes 2, Pelayo 2, Estrella 2, Gabawan 2, Wamar 0, Aquino 0.
Quarters: 15-15, 30-30, 43-49, 68-68 (reg.), 77-75 (OT).
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.