THERE was no endgame collapse for San Juan this time as the Knights repulsed the Davao Occidental Tigers, 70-65, and level their Chooks-to-Go MPBL (Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League) National Finals at 1-1 on Thursday at the closed-door Subic Bay Gym.
Ahead, 68-62, in the homestretch the Knights watched the Tigers miss crucial attempts to avenge their 75-77 overtime loss in the best-of-five series opener on Wednesday.
It was a team effort for the Knights, who were again powered by sniper John Wilson, high-flyers Mike Wilson and Jhonard Clarito, and Larry Rodriguez in the tight battle which saw neither team post a double-digit lead.
Wilson contributed 17 points, Ayonayon 15 points and nine assists, Clarito nine points, 11 rebounds and three blocks, and Rodriguez eight points for the Go for Gold-supported Knights of Coach Randy Alcantara.
Ayonayon, who was granted permission by the NLEX Road Warriors to rejoin the Knights for the National Finals, added two rebounds, two steals, and two blocks, to earn best player honors.
Eman Calo carried the fight for the Cocolife-backed Tigers, scoring the team’s last 10 points en route to a game-high 26.
Mark Yee contributed 13 points and 10 rebounds and Billy Robles 11 points and 10 rebounds for Coach Don Dulay.
A closing 9-point run, capped by a buzzer-beating triple by Orlan Wamar enabled San Juan to regain the lead at 52-50 after the third quarter.
San Juan’s assault stretched to the fourth quarter where they pulled ahead, 60-52, with 6:05 to go.
The National Finals between the Knights, the North Division champions, and the Tigers, the South Division titlists, take a break on Friday.
It will resume with the pivotal Game 3 on Saturday.
The Tigers scored the game’s first nine points, but the Knights, behind Wilson, Rodriguez, Clarito, and CJ Isit rallied to knot the count at 15 after the first quarter.