(Caption: John Arthur Vidal of Muntinlupa passes the ball to team mate as he clobbered by the defense of San Juan.)
SAN Juan-Go for Gold AICC punched its ticket to the playoffs after a 71-67 victory over Muntinlupa in the Chooks-to-Go Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League Invitational powered by TM, Friday night at the SM Mall of Asia Arena.
The Cagers fought back from 13 points down in the fourth quarter to trim the lead to just two, 65-67, off an Edward Dixon layup with 1:29 left.
Jason Melano and John Vidal exchanged baskets before CJ Isit iced the game for the Knights with two free throws.
“Well, upon studying their individual tendencies and their team tendencies, ni-reiterate lang namin sa mga players na yun nga, after winning our first two games we still have to be ready,” said Knights assistant coach Ernani Epondulan, who took the place of Randy Alcantara in the post-game as his blood pressure shot up after the tilt.
“We still have to be ready going to this game kasi alam namin yung sitwasyon ng Muntinlupa hindi ‘yan pupunta dito nang hindi ready. Pupunta ‘yan rito para manalo,” he added.
Melano, who was emotional after the game as he has yet to speak with his family from Typhoon Odette-hit Cebu, paced San Juan with 13 points, 12 rebounds, five assists, a steal, and a block in 30 minutes and 56 seconds.
Orlan Wamar delivered four three-pointers to finish with 12 points while Jhonard Clarito added a double-double of 11 points and 10 boards.
With its 3-0 record, the Knights claimed one of the two quarterfinals slots in Pool C while also eliminating the 0-3 Muntinlupa.
This also meant that Nueva Ecija (2-0), who won its games against Sarangani (1-2) and Valenzuela (1-2), respectively, has already secured the other quarterfinals seat.
Rey Peralta had 12 points to lead the Cagers while GJ Ylagan and Vidal added 11 each.
San Juan will go up against Nueva Ecija on Sunday at 6:30 PM to end its pool stage. Muntinlupa will face the Rice Vanguards on Monday at 5:00 PM.
San Juan 71 – Melano 13, Wamar 12, Clarito 11, Abundo 10, Isit 8, Calma 8, Manzo 4, Rodriguez 4, Abando 1, Nocum 0, Gamboa 0.
Muntinlupa 67 – Peralta 12, Vidal 11, Ylagan 11, Mosqueda 9, Saitanan 7, Alano 7, Dixon 5, Bagatsing 3, Capacio Ga. 2, Capacio Gw. 0.
Quarterscores: 19-18, 41-34, 59-46, 71-67.