AICC Manila defeated the San Juan Knights, 72-68, in the deciding Game Three of the finals to be crowned the first-ever champions of the Filbasket tournament on Monday night at the Subic Bay Gymnasium.
Michael Mabulac sparked a 10-0 run in the second period that helped AICC Manila establish a 36-25 lead. The wide-bodied bruiser and crafty guard Chris Bitoon also conspired in a brief run that pushed their lead to 62-49, with just 6:12 remaining in the match.
However, San Juan had one last rally in them as they pulled to within two, 68-70, after an Alvin Abundo floater, a deuce by JM Calma, and a triple by Jhonard Clarito with just four seconds to go.
AICC Manila, though, would not be denied as veteran wingman Ronjay Buenafe calmly sank two free throws with two seconds to go to seal the win and the championship.
Mabulac almost had a double-double with 18 points and eight rebounds to go with three steals and a block. Bitoon finished with 13 markers and six boards while point guard Hesed Gabo—who was named Finals MVP—finished with 10 points, six assists and three rebounds.
It was actually the second title for this year for the core of the AICC Manila squad, which bannered the Basilan team that won the national title of the Pilipinas VisMin Super Cup a few months ago.
The loss was a disheartening one for the Knights, which looked well on their way to the title after winning Game One, 80-74. Incoming Letran Knights star Rhenz Abando led the way for San Juan with 17 points and four rebounds while Clarito chipped in 11. Renato Ular and Orlan Wamar had 10 markers apiece.