Express keep on soaring, repulse AcesBy Musong R. Castillo
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Showing a lot of maturity in a wild and woolly finish, Air 21 notched a third straight win last night by spilling Alaska, 104-103, in the PBA Philippine Cup eliminations at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Mark Isip hit the winning jumper with 6.1 seconds remaining as the Express survived the loss of a 17-point first half lead and rose to the middle of the standings with a 4-5 card while deal the Aces a third straight defeat.
Niño Cañaleta scored 21 points and five others turned in twin digits, with new acquisition Mike Cortez churning out a second straight double-double with 12 points and 11 assists, the last of those feeds finding the hands of Isip.
“[Alaska] didn’t quit,” said coach Franz Pumaren, who notched the first three-game winning streak of his coaching career. “Good thing that we were still able to regroup.”
Cortez also forced JV Casio to unleash a wild attempt on the potential game-winning play for the Aces in the dying seconds.
Calvin Abueva, Alaska’s prodigious rookie, was hampered by foul trouble but rallied the Aces in the waning minutes, converting on a rare four-point play off Bonbon Custodio that highlighted a whirlwind spurt by the Aces.
Mac Baracael then hit a three of his own to knot the count at 100 before Abueva had a steal, missed a breakaway dunk and grabbed the miss for another two points that shoved Alaska to a 102-100 lead with 1:47 left.
Alaska took the lead for the last time at 103-102 after Cyrus Baguio split his charities off Nelbert Omolon with 23.2 left.
“This is the first time that we beat a .500 team,” Pumaren said. “Hopefully, we could sustain it.”
John Wilson fired 13 points, Isip finished with 12 like Cortez, and James Sena and Custodio shot 11 apiece for the Express, who have become a high-scoring team ever since the arrival of Cortez two games ago.
Air 21 dished out a total of 29 assists while shooting close to 59 percent from two-point range and 6-of-16 from three-point zone.
Baracael led the Aces with 24, while Abueva went on to shoot 17 points and grab 10 rebounds.
Baguio was limited by the Air 21 defense to just five points on eight attempts.
AIR21 104—Canaleta 21, Wilson 13, Isip 12, Cortez 12, Sena 11, Custodio 11, Omolon 9, Baclao 7, Reyes 6, Arboleda 2, Atkins 0.
ALASKA 103—Baracael 24, Abueva 17, Espinas 16, Reys 8, Casio 8, Jazul 7, Thoss 7, Hontiveros 6, Baguio 5, Eman 3, Laure 2, Dela Cruz 0.
Quarters: 34-20, 61-48, 84-76, 104-103