By Ivan Saldajeno
SAN JUAN, MM--San Juan rallied late in overtime to defeat Manila, at home, 84-80, in their anticipated Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League battle at the FilOil Flying V Centre on Wednesday night.
The Knights squandered a double-digit lead entering the fourth quarter and even had to answer the Stars's comeback bid in the extra five minutes to move up in the Northern Division standings.
San Juan entered the fourth quarter with a comfortable 62-51 lead banking on a 24-12 second quarter outburst.
But Manila started the fourth quarter with a 17-5 run to take a 68-67 lead with 2:09 to play in regulation.
Rian Ayonayon made a triple to put the Knights back up, but Reil Cervantes scored on a layup with 20.3 seconds remaining in the fourth to tie the game up, 70-all.
Ayonayon had a chance to win it in regulation, but his jumper went off the mark, sending the game to overtime.
San Juan threatened to pull away again in the extra session as Manila struggled from the free throw line.
But a triple and a breakaway layup from Chris Bitoon capped a 6-0 run that gave the Stars their last taste of the lead at 80-79 with 1:33 remaining.
Larry Rodriguez then cleaned up Ayonayon's miss and made the ensuing free throw off a Bitoon foul to give the Knights the lead back, 82-80, with 1:05 left.
Cervantes had a chance to tie the game anew, but he missed two free throws off a Rodriguez foul.
Marcy Arellano kept Manila alive as he stole the ball from Larry Muyang, but Cervantes and Bitoon failed to equalize the match as they missed on their jumpers even as Ayonayon went all the way to the cup for the game-sealing layup off the rebound.
Rodriguez made 21 points, 12 rebounds, two assists, one block, and one steal, while John Wilson added 18 points, six rebounds, and two assists for the now 13-3 San Juan, which switched places with Manila in the North table and is now in second place, a half-game behind Bataan at the top spot.
Cervantes made 24 markers, eight boards, and two blocks for Manila, which fell to 12-3.
In the curtain-raiser, Matthew Bernabe fired the game-winning triple with 15 seconds left as Imus rallied to beat Navotas, 79-78.
Bernabe's trey capped a 31-point fourth quarter outburst that helped the Bandera complete a comeback from 26 points down to edge the Clutch.
Jai Reyes still tried to preserve the win for Navotas, but he missed his own go-ahead three-ball just before the final horn.
James Castro tallied 20 points, five assists, and four assists to lead Imus, which moved up to sixth place in the Southern Division at 7-7.
Reyes fired 17 markers, four rebounds, five dimes, and two steals for the now 5-9 Navotas, but he went 3-for-13 from beyond the arc as the team failed to go back up to the eighth spot in the North.
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