A win away from redemption.
The Davao Occidental Tigers moved on the cusp of ruling the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League (MPBL) with a 66-58 win over the San Juan Knights in Game 3 of the National Finals in Subic on Saturday, March 20.
Game 1 hero Billy Ray Robles delivered 13 points, 8 rebounds, and 4 blocks as Davao Occidental averted a fourth-quarter meltdown to nail a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five series.
Trailing by as many 14 points, San Juan clawed back into the game after shaving its deficit to a single possession, 53-56, early in the final quarter thanks to back-to-back John Wilson and Orlan Wamar triples.
But the Tigers – determined to avenge their finals loss to the defending champion Knights last season – restored order with two straight three-pointers from Joseph Terso and Kenneth Mocon.
Davao Occidental then only needed to keep its distance the rest of the way as San Juan only got to as close as 6 points since.
Mocon put up 11 points and 3 rebounds, Bonbon Custodio chalked up 10 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, and 3 steals, while Mark Yee added 7 points and 11 rebounds for the Tigers.
Mike Ayonayon, who starred in the Knights' Game 2 win, showed the way in the loss with 16 points, 3 rebounds, and 3 assists off the bench.
However, Ayonayon lacked sufficient help from his teammates, with John Wilson the only other player to score in double figures with 12 points on top of 9 rebounds and 2 assists.
San Juan has little time to make adjustments as Davao Occidental tries to wrap up the series in Game 4 on Sunday, March 21.
Davao Occidental 66 – Robles 13, Mocon 11, Custodio 10, Yee 7, Gaco 7, Ludovice 6, Calo 6, Terso 3, Saldua 2, Balagtas 1.
San Juan 58 – Ayonayon 16, Wilson 12, Wamar 8, Rodriguez 6, Clarito 5, Isit 5, Reyes 4, Pelayo 2, Estrella 0, Tajonera 0, Gabawan 0, Aquino 0, Marquez 0.
Quarters: 15-14, 41-27, 52-42, 66-58.
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.