MPBL: Favored San Juan, Makati, expansion squad Iloilo triumph

TITLE favorites San Juan and Makati took different paths before carving out their second win in as many matches in the MPBL Lakan Season even as expansion team Iloilo debuted in thrilling fashion as all of them came out victorious late Friday night at the Filoil Flying V Centre in San Juan.

The Knights squandered a 21-point lead in the first period, but kept their composure all game long on their way to preserving a 74-72 win over the Pasay Voyagers.

Larry Rodriguez came away with a double-double performance of 10 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Go-For-Gold-backed Knights their second straight win.

San Juan, however, needed John Wilson’s big stop in the endgame against Jan Jamon that somehow sealed the win for the reigning champion.

Earlier, Makati used its solid defensive game plan and experience in turning back upstart Bacolod-Master Sardines, 84-74, in the other game.

The Super Crunch forced their rivals to a spate of turnovers and their lock down defense baffled the expansion team, which lost for the first time in two games.

Makati’s defense on Mark Tallo, who exploded for 31 in his debut game, proved to be the big difference as the former PBA player was held down to just 11 markers on 4-of-15 shooting from the field. The ex-NLEX guard, however, dished out nine assists and grabbed nine boards and nearly completed a triple-double performance.

But team defense was also more evident on Makati, which forced its rival to commit 20 turnovers that resulted to 21 points at the other end.

Overshadowed by the favorites’ contrasting victories was Iloilo’s thrilling 67-64 triumph over Parañaque.

Richard Escoto buried a buzzer-beating trey before the end of regulation to lift the expansion squad to a promising start in the fastest growing regional amateur basketball league in the country put up by Senator Manny Pacquiao with PBA legend and former MVP Kenneth Duremdes serving as commissioner.