(UPDATED) Of all the people to kill Davao's dreams of winning the MPBL Datu Cup championship, it had to be one of its hometown players who happens to be starring on the opposing team.
Jhonard Clarito came up big in the final minute, making clutch plays on both ends of the floor to lead the San Juan Knights to the MPBL Datu Cup championship in a thrilling Game 5 on Thursday.
Down by 7 late, the Go for Gold-backed Knights relied on Clarito, a forward from De Ocampo Memorial College, to stun the Davao Occidental Tigers 87-86 in a frantic finish at Rizal Memorial Colleges Gym.
The Tigers, supported by Cocolife, were up 84-79 with 1:48 left in the game, and looked in control and ready to celebrate on their home floor.
After Larry Rodriguez's jumper cut the deficit to 3, Clarito, a native of Magsaysay town, Davao del Sur, picked a pass on an inbounds play then made a layup to make it 84-83 1:05 remaining on the clock.
Mark Yee responded with 2 free throws to give the Tigers some breathing room, but Clarito made another basket off an offensive rebound to keep the visitors in the game.
A miss from downtown by Davao Occidental's Emman Calo led to another rebound by Clarito, who soared for a layup against two defenders, putting the Knights in front 87-86 with 8 seconds to go.
The Tigers tried to push the ball hoping to get a decent attempt at a go-ahead basket, but they failed amid a spate of erratic plays.
As the buzzer sounded, the Tigers and their fans were stunned silent, while the victorious Knights, who had one foot in the grave before pulling off the dramatic comeback, collectively jumped for joy in center court as some fell into tears.
Ryan Ayon Ayon, adjudged National Finals MVP, finished with 33 points on 12-of-18 shooting from the field, most of which he scored in the first half where the Knights led 49-35.
That lead was obliterated in the third quarter, where the Tigers outscored the Knights 33-14, a reversal that put the hosts up 68-63 and clearly gave them momentum.
But San Juan didn't give up to secure the topsy-turvy, title-clinching win.
Rodriguez tallied 15 points and 13 rebounds before fouling out, while Clarito added 11 points.
Yee finished with 27 points on 9-of-11 shooting
Bonbon Custodio, whose 15 points in the third quarter, including a 13-of-14 performance from the free-throw, keyed the Tigers' third-quarter run, ended up with 19 points.
Overall, the hosts were awarded 48 free throws, making 36 of them, while the Knights were given 21 and converting 15.
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