When San Juan is in danger, count on John Wilson to deliver.
Wilson bunched seven points to lift the Knights out of a deep pit and frustrate the Pasay Voyagers, 75-74, in the opener of their Chooks-to-Go MPBL Lakan Season North division quarterfinal series last Saturday at FilOil Flying V Center in San Juan City.
The Knights’ great escape, sealed by one of two free throws by Jhonard Clarito with nine seconds to go, overshadowed the Pampanga Giant Lanterns’ wire-to-wire domination of the Bataan Risers, 71-64, in another quarterfinal playoffs.
Pampanga blitzed to a 17-0 start, padded the lead to 30 before halftime, and coasted to its ninth straight win dating back to Nov. 22 last year.
Powered by Axel Inigo, the Voyagers surged to a 64-55 lead, before Wilson sparked a 12-0 run to push the Knights ahead, 67-64, with 3:41 left.
The Voyagers fought back to tie the game thrice, the last at 71, which was shattered by a Wilson triple.
With San Juan ahead, 75-71, Pasay’s Ron Lastimosa canned a triple for the final tally.
Mike Ayonayon topscored for San Juan with 15 points, followed by Clarito with 13 and nine boards, and Wilson with 11, all but one in the fourth quarter.
Inigo wound up with 24 points for Pasay, which also got 13 from Elmar Moradas and 11 from Jaypee Belencion.
Unlike the Knights, the reigning MPBL Datu Cup champions, the Giant Lanterns were virtually pressure-free until the end of the third quarter, 56-40.
Reed Juntilla and Gino Jumao-as struck in the fourth quarter to revive Bataan’s hopes, 58-64, but Pampanga quashed it on back-to-back baskets by Hernandez and Mark Cruz.
Hernandez finished with 18 points, Cervantes 13, and homegrown Jeric Fabian 10 for Pampanga coach Bong Ramos.
Bataan got 19 points and 10 rebounds from Ryan Batino, 12 points and six boards from Jumao-as, and 10 points from Juntilla.
Pampanga will seek a repeat and a semifinals slot when it tangles with Bataan on Feb. 20 at 8:30 p.m. at the Angeles University Foundation Arena in Angeles City, Pampanga. San Juan also seeks a semis berth when it tangles with Pasay at 6:30 p.m.