Knights trounce Warriors; Stars too strong for Steel
MANILA, Philippines – The San Juan Knights stormed ahead in the third quarter then cruised to an 86-76 conquest of the General Santos City Warriors Thursday night in the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League Datu Cup at San Andres Sports Complex in Manila.
With veteran Mac Cardona at the firing end, the Go for Gold-backed Knights led by as many as 24 points, 68-44, before quelling the Warriors' last uprising and climbing to 14-3 in the North division.
Cardona clustered 10 points in that decisive breakaway and wound up with a team-high 18 points, followed by John Wilson, another former pro, with 17.
Other major contributors for the Knights' fourth straight victory were Ryan Ayonayon and Jamil Gabawan, who chipped in 11 points each.
The Warriors, who came to within 78-86 through the joint efforts of Marlon Basco and John Orbeta, suffered their eighth loss against seven wins.
After exploding for an MPBL-best 41 points in the Warriors' 116-72 rout of the Pasig Pirates on Nov. 24 in Basilan, Leomer Losentes was held without a field goal by the tight Knights defense and settled for four points.
Free throw shooting turned out to be a key factor in the Randy Alcantara-mentored Knights' triumph as they converted 23 of 29 attempts for 79 percent as against the Warriors' woeful 12 of 28 performance for 43 percent.
The Manila Stars poured on the heat when it mattered most and melted Basilan Steel, 79-67, in the nightcap.
Ahead by nine, 63-54, the Stars held the Steel scoreless for 4 minutes and 20 seconds while coming through with eight points to pull away, 71-54, and seal their 13th win against three losses.
The Steel, with only Dennis Daa scoring in double figures with 10, fell to 4-11.
Chris Bitoon again sparkled for the Robust Energy Capsule-backed Stars with 26 points, including 11 in the fourth quarter, eight rebounds, seven assists and a career-high six steals.
He was supported by Reil Cervantes with 18 points and Jasper Parker with 11.