MPBL: Undefeated Knights are a cut above the rest

Migs Bustos on Aug 03, 2019 12:05 PM
MPBL: Undefeated Knights are a cut above the rest
Mike Ayonayon of the San Juan Knights-Go For Gold has made a leap after winning the Finals MVP award in the MPBL Datu Cup.

Experience. Cohesiveness.

These factors have led to the San Juan Knights-Go For Gold's stellar start in the MPBL Lakan Season as they remain undefeated after seven games. 

Coming off a big five-game championshiop series win in the Datu Cup, the Knights' confidence is sky high, but they admit that this season has been tougher.

“Mas focused kami now sa team defense.  Malalakas at mas magagaling ang mga teams at players now," shared veteran John Wilson.

With 31 teams and longer gaps between games, it has been a little tougher to get one’s groove on a consistent basis. Because of their championship experience, they’ve been able to will through tough games. 

According to MPBL anchor and journalist Cedelf Tupas, a big factor to the Knights' unblemished record is their finals stint.

“Guys like Jhonard Clarito and Mike Ayonayon really made a leap as far as their development as players following the finals and they've carried that over this season. While other teams seem to fold in crunch time, the Knights look more and more comfortable. They embrace the challenge when games go down the wire,” observed Tupas.

Credit the early achievement also so far to San Juan's leadership and team chemistry.

“They've got a great mix of vets and young players in the squad who have embraced the system of coach Randy Alcantara, who despite his achievements remains one of the most underrated coaches in the country,” added Tupas.

True enough, their experience in the clutch helped them escape with a one-point victory over the Bacoor Strikers to open the season, a two-point triumph over the Pasay Voyagers and an overtime win over the Bataan Risers

Larry Rodriguez is still a force wherever he goes. Former NCAA MVP Wilson has always been consistent for the Knights, as he averages 16 points and six boards a game. Journeyman and Datu Cup Game 5 Finals hero Jhonard Clarito has been likewise a reliable scorer on offense, averaging 12 points in seven games. 

As the team is continuing to getting better, the Knights have recruited young and experienced guard Andoy Estrella, who also played under Alcantara back in the NCAA. He is reunited with his Mapua teammate CJ Isit, who has been playing quality minutes this off-season.

Estrella and Isit came out big against Pasay, with a combined 23 points and eight rebounds, while Rodriguez had a big double-double of 12 points and 16 boards against the Strikers.

The next game of the San Juan Knights will be on August 5, against the dangerous Quezon City Capitals.

The Capitals (4-3) are also a steady team, with four players averaging in double figures: Clark Derigue (13.3 ppg), Joco Tayontong (12.6 ppg), Tonino Gonzaga (11.6 ppg), Aaron Black (11.4 ppg)

On the other hand, the Knights have also been consistent. Besides Wilson and Clarito averaging 16 and 12 a game, respectively and Mike Ayonayon putting up 12 markers an outing, Rodriguez and Mac Cardona both average close to 10 points per game.

Wilson adds, they have no problem on offense as they let the game come to them. “Go with the flow lang with our offense. And sometimes, kung sino mainit, dun naming binabagsak ang bola.”

If you are or have been in basketball for quite some time, all these quotes said by Wilson and Tupas are not new. But it’s easier said than done, it’s all about putting in to action what a team needs to do inside the court to get the job done.

But more than finishing the work, it’s about cementing a reputation that experience pays off by focusing on the tiniest of details. 

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