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San Juan claims MPBL title at Davao Occidental on endgame push

By Ivan Saldajeno

MANILA—San Juan took over at the death to stun Davao Occidental, 87-86, and clinch the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League championship at the Rizal Memorial College Gym in Davao City on Thursday night.

The Knights pulled off a huge comeback to recover from the Tigers' second half surge.

Down 35-49 at halftime, Davao Occidental came alive in the third quarter, outscoring San Juan 33-14 to take a 68-63 lead and was ahead, 84-77, with 3:43 to play in the fourth quarter.

The Knights, however, went on a 6-0 run to trim the lead to just one, 84-83, with 1:03 to play.

Mark Yee gave the Tigers some cushion as he made two free throws off Larry Rodriguez's fifth foul with 1:01 left.

But Jhonard Clarito scored the last four points of the game, including the game-winning layup with 8.9 seconds left.

Davao Occidental had one final chance to win it at home as Eman Calo blew past the San Juan defense, but he missed the go-ahead layup and San Juan milked the remaining time on the clock to take home the title.

Mike Ayonayon fired 33 points, one rebound, and two steals en route to Finals Most Valuable Player honor for the Knights, who won a major league championship for the second time in franchise history, having won the 2000 Metropolitan Basketball Association title.

Rodriguez added 15 points, 13 rebounds, and two assists.

Mark Yee made 27 points, going 9-for-9 from two-point range, seven rebounds, one assist, and one steal for the Tigers.

Follow him on Twitter: @IvanSaldajeno