JHONARD Clarito stole the show as San Juan pulled off a gutsy 67-62 Game Three win over Davao Occidental in the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League (MPBL) Datu Cup National Finals on Tuesday at Filoil Flying V Centre.
The unheralded De Ocampo Memorial College product stepped up for the Knights when it mattered the most, draining a putback with 55.7 seconds remaining to break a 62-all deadlock before a split from the line in the final 12 ticks made it 65-62.
Clarito finished with 12 points and 18 rebounds as the Go for Gold-backed San Juan moved a win away from claiming the MPBL title.
Game Four of the best-of-five series is on Wednesday, still at the Knights' homecourt.
Turnovers haunted the Cocolife-backed Tigers in the endgame, with Mark Yee mistiming a pass to Bonbon Custodio coming off a Clarito miss from the line before another Arnold Adormeo error led to Mac Cardona and John Wilson icing the win late.
Clarito added three steals, two assists, and two blocks as the hardworking forward proved to be a perfect partner for Mike Ayonayon, who led his side with 15 points and four rebounds.
Wilson went 5-of-9 from the field to finish with 12 points and seven rebounds as Cardona endured a woeful 2-of-11 shooting night to contribute nine points.
"It's all credit to our players dahil talagang binigay nila yung best nila at mas gusto naming manalo sa homecourt kaya naging ganoon ang resulta," said deputy coach Yong Garcia, who took the helm for the Knights in lieu of head coach Randy Alcantara.
Alcantara was on his way to the venue when he complained of hypertension. He instead ended up in a hospital for a check-up.
The Knights later dedicate the game to their mentor as they zeroed in on possibly their first title since ruling the 2001 Metropolitan Basketball Association (MBA) season.
Bogs Raymundo led Davao Occidental with 15 points and five rebounds. Bonbon Custodio added 14 points, nine boards, and four assists.
SAN JUAN 67 -- Ayonayon 18, Clarito 12, Wilson 12, Cardona 9, Rodriguez 8, Wamar 4, Reyes 4, Isit 2, Jeruta 0, Muyang 0, Aquino 0, Marquez 0, Tajonera 0.
DAVAO OCCIDENTAL 62 -- Raymundo 15, Custodio 14, Terso 10, Calo 7, Yee 7, Robles 6, Najorda 3, Regalado 0, Adormeo 0, Medalla 0, Gonzales 0.
Quarters: 13-20, 31-29, 51-53, 67-62.