THE hero San Juan needed to finally put away Davao Occidental ironically hailed from nearby Davao del Sur.
Jhonard Clarito drained the game-winning lay-up to lift the Knights past Davao Occidental in a nail-biting 87-86 win in the deciding Game Five of the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League (MPBL) Datu Cup Finals on Thursday.
The tireless De Ocampo Memorial College forward attacked the defense of Billy Robles and Mark Yee and took it straight to the rack for the go-ahead bucket in the final 8.9 seconds, silencing a rowdy crowd at the Rizal Memorial College Gym.
Eman Calo had the chance to steal the game late for the hosts Tigers, but he flubbed his desperation layup as Clarito secured the board to ice the title for the Go-for-Gold-backed Knights.
Clarito scored 11 points, including the game's final six points, on top of his four rebounds, as the Knights averted a late collapse after holding a 49-34 lead near the end of the first half.
San Juan found itself down by nine in the fourth quarter and behind by seven, 84-77, in the last 3:43 before Mike Ayonayon and Larry Rodriguez brought it closer to set the stagefor Clarito's heroics.
Ayonayon scored 33 points on an ultra-efficient 12-of-18 shooting from the field, while Rodriguez got himself a double-double with his 15 points and 13 rebounds,
Mac Cardona got himself 12 points and five assists as the Knights snared their first title since ruling the first conference of the 2001 season of the defunct Metropolitan Basketball Association (MBA).
San Juan, however, nearly let the win slip away as Yee spearheaded Davao Occidental's 33-point third quarter that gave the host team a 68-63 advantage.
Yee, an All-MPBL First Team member, led the Tigers with 27 points and seven rebounds in the sorry defeat.
Bonbon Custodio got himself 19 points, five steals, and four rebounds, as Davao Occidental also garnered solid contributions from Arnold Adormeo, who had 12 points, and Calo, who got 10.
SAN JUAN 87 - Ayonayon 33, Rodriguez 15, Cardona 12, Clarito 11, Wilson 8, Reyes 4, Wamar 3, Isit 1, Jeruta 0, Aquino 0, Muyang 0, Tajonera 0, Marquez 0.
DAVAO OCCIDENTAL 86 - Yee 27, Custodio 19, Adormeo 12, Calo 10, Terso 5, Ombecan 5, Najorda 3, Lamocha 3, Robles 2, Raymundo 0, Regalado 0.
Quarters: 21-15, 49-35, 63-68, 87-86.