By Adrian Stewart Co
AICC Manila survived a tough stand by San Juan Knights-Go For Gold to escape with a 72-68 win in the do-or-die Game 3 of the Filbasket Inaugural Tournament finals on Monday night at the Subic Bay Gymnasium.
Holding to a 70-61 lead with a minute and a half left in the match, the Knights came up with back-to-back two-pointers from Alvin Abundo and JM Calma followed by a Jhonard Clarito triple to trim the deficit to 68-70 with three seconds left.
Manila, however, increased the lead to 72-68 with two seconds left behind two free throws by Ron Jason Buenafe before San Juan’s Rhenz Abando misfired his triple try at the buzzer.
Buenafe finished the match with eight points to go with two rebounds, two assists and a block as Manila topped the best-of-three titular showdown despite losing Game 1 to the Knights.
Michael Mabulac led the way for the Manilenyos with 18 points and eight rebounds, Chris Bitoon added 13 markers, while Finals MVP Hesed Gabo contributed 10 points and six assists.
This was actually the second championship this year for the core of AICC Manila, which also formed the Basilan BRT Peace Riders team that won the title in the Pilipinas VisMin Super Cup first conference.
Abando led the way for the Knights with 17 points, Clarito chipped in 11 markers, while Renato Ular and Orlan Wamar had 10 markers apiece, while Calma had 13 rebounds on top of eight points.
It was a heartbreaking defeat for the Knights team as this was their second bridesmaid finish during the pandemic following its runner up finish in the MPBL Lakan Cup to Davao Occidental.
Meanwhile, Medical Depot center Simon Camacho was hailed as the tournament MVP following his averages of 14.3 points, 12.3 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 1.5 steals, and 3.6 blocks per outing.
The former Bacolod Master Sardines center was also part of the All-Filbasket Tournament Team along with Wamar of San Juan, Mabulac of AICC Manila, Renz Palma of Nueva Ecija, and Thomas Torres of Muntinlupa./ASC, WDJ