MAKATI derailed San Juan's march to the championship round of the 2020 Chooks-to-Go Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League (MPBL) Lakan Cup, scoring a gutsy 91-88 Game Two victory in the North Division Finals Wednesday at Filoil Flying V Centre.
Jeckster Apinan anchored the Super Crunch with his near-triple-double performance of 20 points, 12 rebounds, seven assists, and two steals to hand the Knights their first defeat in the playoffs.
Jong Baloria added 18 points and four boards, while Joseph Sedurifa stuffed the stat sheets for Makati with 15 points, six rebounds, six assists, four steals, and three blocks.
Joshua Torralba also fired 14 points and eight boards, as Cedrick Ablaza poured 13 points, seven rebounds, and two assists before suffering a sprained ankle that took him out in the final 3:10 of the game.
The Super Crunch, however, had to sweat the game out as they lost a nine-point lead in the fourth quarter and an 86-78 lead in the last 1:37.
The Go for Gold-backed Knights showed the heart of a champion and refused to quit, with Laurenz Victoria securing a steal on Rudy Lingganay's inbound and quickly flipping the ball to CJ Isit to trim the lead to two, 89-87, with 19.6 ticks left.
After Sedurifa's free throws gave Makati a 91-87 lead in the last 14 seconds, Victoria split his freebies to cut deficit down to three, but Lingganay was whistled for a travelling violation after getting the rebound and handing San Juan one last shot to force overtime in the last five seconds.
John Wilson, though, could not find the bottom of the net for the Knights as the best-of-three series goes to a Game Three on Saturday, still at the same venue.
"We talked to each other na we've been in this situation before, na our backs are against the wall. Kailangan bumalik tayo sa sistema natin, at syempre, yung depensa," said Super Crunch coach Beaujing Acot.
Makati was originally slated to host Game Two, but once again failed to gain clearance to stage the game at Makati Coliseum.
Lucky for them, the homecourt for San Juan hardly mattered as the game pushed through behind closed doors due to the threat of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).
"Actually sabi nga namin, when God closes a door, he opens a window. Bawal yung court sa Makati, pero binigyan niya kami ng window of opportunity na maging closed doors," said Acot. "So naging advantage sa amin yun, walang home crowds both teams so its just really just a five-on-five basketball."
Wilson led the Knights with 21 points, but only shot 3-of-10 from downtown. He also had five rebounds and two assists.
Isit and Andoy Estrella both had 17 points, as Jhonard Clarito scored all of his 12 points in the payoff period, to go with his 11 boards and three steals.
Missing for San Juan was the production of Mike Ayonayon, who was contained to just seven points before fouling out with 2:30 left in the game.
MAKATI 91 -- Apinan 20, Baloria 18, Sedurifa 15, Torralba 14, Ablaza 13, Cruz 5, Villanueva 3, Atkins 3, Lingganay 0, Importante 0.
SAN JUAN 88 -- Wilson 21, Estrella 17, Isit 17, Clarito 12, Ayonayon 7, Tajonera 4, Wamar 4, Gabawan 2, Aquino 2, Victoria 1, Bunag 1, Reyes 0, Pelayo 0.
Quarters: 18-18, 38-35, 62-54, 91-88.