MANILA, Philippines – Import Michael Dunigan made his presence felt on both ends of the floor to help Air21 turn back Barangay Ginebra San Miguel 74-70 Sunday night in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Dunigan unleashed 18 of his 26 points in the second half while also collecting game-highs 19 rebounds and five blocks.
“Michael (Dunigan) was a big factor, he gave us intimidation and when we needed to score he was there,” said Air21 head coach Franz Pumaren.
The Express led by 12, 35-23, early in the third period but needed to hold off the Kings in the final frame.
Dunigan scored on a tough hook on a back to the basket move over counterpart Herbert Hill that gave his team a five-point cushion 72-67 with 42.7 seconds remaining.
Ginebra, which tied an all-time franchise low with only 21 points by halftime, moved to within a possession 70-73 on a quick three by reigning MVP Mark Caguioa off the timeout with 26.8 ticks left after Mike Cortez’ free throw made it 73-67.
But the Kings weren’t able to convert on their next trip with Caguioa missing on a three as he was chased by Nino Canaleta.
“It’s always a nice feeling beating Ginebra with their star-studded team,” said Pumaren. “I’m not trying to be humble but man-for-man, I think we’re the weakest. We didn’t have any upgrades on our lineup.”
For Sunday night though, Air21’s mainstays proved to be enough with Cortez killing his former team Ginebra in the fourth quarter with nine points. Cortez wound up with 13 points, six rebounds, four assists and two steals.
Caguioa matched Williams’ output with 26 points while Hill overcame a horrendous start to finish with 17 points, 18 rebounds and four blocks.
The Kings were lucky enough to be down by just 10, 21-31, at the half after they shot just 7.7 percent from the field (1/13) to go along with six turnovers in the second quarter alone.