Air21 ‘gatecrashes’ semis after booting out no. 2 San Miguel
MANILA, Philippines — With backbreaking effort, Air21 stunned second seeded-San Miguel, 101-95, to enter the semifinals of the 2014 PBA Commissioner’s Cup Friday night at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Hustle and heart carried the seventh-place Express, who only had three wins in the elimination round, past the Beermen who had a twice-to-beat edge entering the quarterfinals.
“I’m really speechless right now. We were able to slay the dragon. Beating them two in a row is fulfilling,” said an elated Franz Pumaren after the game.
“I know for a fact, experts didn’t even give us a chance to make it the next round. This win is so precious to me. They really wanted this. We’re gatecrashers in the semis.”
Down 10 points with two minutes to play, Asi Taulava, Macmac Cardona and Sean Anthony muscled their way to an 11-1 run to send the game into overtime.
Anthony forced a turnover on Ronald Tubid with 4.8 seconds left, giving them a crack at the game-tying shot. Import Wesley Witherspoon bungled a triple, but Taulava was there to turn his miss to gold with 0.2 left.
“This team didn’t want to lose,” said Pumaren. “After Yeo was thrown out, our rotation was caught off guard but we survived.”
Yeo, who had 11 points in 16 minutes, was ejected in the first half after he was slapped with a flagrant foul penalty two for hitting Chris Ross in the groin area.
While the moment swung to the Boosters’ favor after that, the Express still kept their sights on the coveted semifinals berth and managed to conjure a game-winning effort.
Air21 opened the OT period with four straight points from Anthony and Cardona, but San Miguel caught up behind Ross and Arwind Santos and forged another extra period.
In the second OT though, the Express buried the Beermen and led by as many as eight points, 99-91, which sealed their trip to the semis against either Alaska or San Mig Coffee.
Witherspoon finished with 26 points, while Anthony had an impressive performance with 18 points and 12 rebounds. Taulava added 16 markers while Cardona, eight.
It was another disappointing exit for the Beermen, who has one of the most talented line-ups in the league.
Kevin Jones had 23 points and 16 rebounds while June Mar Fajardo added 20 and 12, but was no use in the extra 10 minutes after fouling out in the fourth.