Air21 keeps slim playoff hopes going with upset of TNT
MANILA, Philippines — Air21 breathed life into its flatlining playoff bid following a 102-100 win over defending champion Talk ‘N Text in the 2014 PLDT myDSL Philippine Cup Wednesday night at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The Express closed the game on an 11-3 run highlighted by a go-ahead three-point play by Joseph Yeo and capped by a free throw by Niño Canaleta with 2.2 ticks left.
“At least with this victory we’re still alive and kicking. The beauty right now with our situation is that our destiny is in our hands. We just need to win our next two games,” said Air21 coach Franz Pumaren.
“I think this is the first time we closed out well. Asi (Taulava) really gave us a big lift. The whole time he really dominated the paint. Just looking at the stats of Asi is like looking at him five to eight years ago,” added Pumaren.
The 40-year old Asi Taulava scored 23 points and grabbed 18 rebounds while Canaleta and Yeo had 16 and 13 points, respectively.
Canaleta kickstarted Air21’s end-game surge from 91-97 down with a triple before Yeo poured in five unanswered points including a beeline drive plus the foul and bonus freebie that gave the Express the upper hand, 99-97, with 35.0 seconds left.
The Tropang Texters, who muffed a chance to forge a tie in third place with Rain or Shine and dropped to 7-4, nearly countered on a 3-point attempt by Ranidel de Ocampo but it rattled out.
Jayson Castro, who had 21 points, pulled TNT to within one, 100-101, with a trey after Bonbon Custodio went- two-of-two at the charity stripe.
Canaleta missed the second of his two free throws but TNT, with no timeouts left, couldn’t get a hold of the loose ball as Air21 pulled off just its third win in 12 games.
Custodio added 15 points while Yeo also dished out 12 assists. Former Rain or Shine forward Ronnie Matias played his best game yet as an Express with 13 points and five rebounds.
Jimmy Alapag made six out of his 12 triples and finished with 20 points. He buried a 3-pointer from the left corner that gave the Texters a 97-91 buffer with 2:54 remaining.