Pampanga stepped on the gas while San Juan broke down in the fourth quarter as the Giant Lanterns rolled to an 86-82 win over the Knights late Tuesday to bag the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League North Division crown at the FilOil Flying V Centre in San Juan.
The Giant Lanterns banged in 25 points while the Knights could only come up with six in the final frame where Encho Serrano outscored the entire Knights’ squad with 11 to cut short their best-of-three title series and advance to the National Finals against the winner of the South Division Finals between Bacoor and Batangas.
Trailing throughout the first three quarters, the Giant Lanterns greeted the final canto with a telling 22-3 run, fueled by Serrano’s eight points, John Lloyd Clemente’s two triples, MJ Garcia’s basket and capped by Justine Baltazar’s two free throws to take command at 79-73 going to the last minute.
Although San Juan’s Marwin Taywan made a triple, the Knights could not convert after that while the Giant Lanterns got the job done with two charities by Serrano, following a split by Garcia.
Serrano wound up with 16 points, seven assists and three rebounds to earn best player honors over Baltazar, who tallied 14 points, 19 rebounds, seven assists and two steals and Garcia with 16 points, five rebounds, two assists and two steals.
Allen Liwag also did his share with 10 points and 14 rebounds that helped the towering Giant Lanterns to rule the boards, 61-32.
Pampanga, powered by Baltazar and JB Bahio, also bested San Juan, 86-82, in the series opener on 12 November at the Bren Z. Guiao Convention Center in San Fernando, Pampanga.