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San Juan Knights ready to defend MPBL title

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MANILA — The San Juan Knights Go For Gold is looking forward to another successful campaign in the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League (MPBL), which will kick off its third season, billed as “Lakandula Cup”, at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City on June 12.

After claiming their first title last April, the Knights are motivated to keep their winning performance and make it two in a row.
With almost the same line-up, head coach Randy Alcantara said it is possible to win a back-to-back title.

“The core of the team is intact. We also have new players who will definitely contribute to the team,” Alcantara said during the press conference at the Cafe Ysabel in San Juan City on Wednesday.

Andrew Estrella and Jessie Saitanan, who both played for Mapua, will join the Knights line-up composed of Joseph Ubalde (team captain), Rian Michael Ayon, Mac Cardona, Larry Rodriguez, John Wilson, Jhonard Clarito, Carlos Junior Isit, Cedric Pelayo, Orlan Wamar Jr., Joseph Marquez, Art Patrick Aquino, Lester Reyes, Mike Salvado, and Jeff Tajonera.

“I have faith in my players. They will do their best. What we need is to always be prepared because the other teams are also expected to put up a good fight every game,” said Alcantara, who will be assisted by Yong Garcia, Nani Epondulan, and Gherome Ejercito.

Ayon was named Finals MVP when the San Juan Knights beat the Davao Occidental Tigers in the best-of-five title series of the Season 2 Datu Cup.

Team owners Jeremy Go of Go For Gold and Senator Jinggoy Estrada, team governor Chris Conwi, team manager Jun Usman, and Cherry Mobile marketing head Bel Laureola were also present during the press conference.

“The team is motivated to win, not just back-to-back but five-peat or more,” said Go, who is the vice president of Powerball Marketing and Logistics Corp.

Estrada said it is difficult to say the team’s chance of winning the title again but he noted that the players’ determination is a plus factor. He even compared the Knights’ never-say-die attitude to the players of Ginebra in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA).

“It’s hard to predict if we can win the title this season but I can see the determination of the team to win. It’s like the Ginebra team in the PBA. We have seen how San Juan played against Davao in the finals,” he said.

The San Juan Knights will be up against the Bacoor Strikers in a home-and-away game on June 14. The Knights will also play against Season 1 champion Batangas City in Dubai, United Arab Emirates in September.