The San Juan Knights and Manila Stars lived up to hype and trounced their opponents in the resumption of the MPBL Lakan Season Monday (Jan. 6) at San Andres Sports Complex.
The Knights, the North division and overall pacesetters, drubbed Navotas Uni-Pak Sardines, 112-95, to climb to 21-3, while the second-running Stars clobbered the Rizal Golden Coolers, 116-69, to rise to 21-4.
Nueva Ecija caused a buzz with an 85-81 conquest of skidding Batangas City in the opener.
Sinking all of their eight free throws, including the game’s last four points, the Rice Vanguards improved to 7-16 while handing the Tanduay-backed Athletics their third straight loss and a 13-10 record in the South division.
Burly John Paul Sarao drilled in four of four charities while Tonino Gonzaga added two, his total for the night, in the last six seconds to seal the victory for the Vanguards, who were cheered on by busloads of supporters.
James Martinez topscored for Nueva Ecija with 18, followed by Sarao with 14, Adrian Celada with 12 and Maclean Sabellina with 10.
While the Rice Vanguards gutted it out, the Go for Gold-backed Knights and the Frontrow-supported Stars, both assured of playoff spots, frolicked against lowly opponents.
With Orlan Wamar firing 21 points, including six triples, John Wilson contributing 17 points, 7 rebounds and 4 steals, and Mike Ayonayon chipping in 12 points, San Juan moved beyond recall at 101-78 and pulled down Navotas to 9-16.
Chris Bitoon shone for the Stars, who stretched their win run to four, with 28 points and got support from Mark Dyke with 16, and Gabby Espinas and Aris Dionisio with 14 each.
Scoring 41 points from fast breaks, the Stars zoomed ahead at 92-57 and sent the Golden Coolers to their 19th loss in 23 starts.
The MPBL visits the Bulacan Capitol Gymnasium on Tuesday with Imus battling Muntinlupa at 4:15 p.m. Other games pit Basilan against Pasig-Sta. Lucia at 6:45 p.m. and Bulacan against Sarangani at 8:45 p.m.