Express slip past Llamados in Naga
NAGA CITY, Philippines—Ronjay Buenafe scored 21 points and Wesley Gonzales knocked down two crucial jumpers in the fourth quarter as Air21 slipped past Derby Ace, 77-69, Saturday night in a PBA Philippine Cup road game presented by Phoenix Fuel at the Naga Coliseum here.
The Express survived the loss of an eight-point fourth quarter lead to trail by two before waxing hot the rest of the way and win for the first time in three games.
Air21 wiped out a 57-59 deficit with a Buenafe triple and a long jumper by Gonzales as the Express went on to slap a third straight loss on the walking wounded Llamados.
Derby Ace managed to stay within four, 65-61, after several possessions but Gonzales and Wynne Arboleda each drained a trey as the Express zoomed to a decisive 71-61 lead.
It was a big win for the Express, who took a stinging 86-89 loss last week when Jeff Chan knocked in a triple at the buzzer to win it for Rain or Shine.
Derby Ace continued to grope for form, with the 11 points of Peter June Simon leading the squad. Reigning MVP James Yap was bottled up no end by the unforgiving Air21 defense and was held to just eight markers.
The Llamados took the first half, 36-33, after controlling the boards despite the continued absence of big men Rafi Reavis, Marc Pingris and perennial all-star Kerby Raymundo.
Meanwhile, sister squads San Miguel and Barangay Ginebra slug it out for the first time this season at 6:30 p.m. Sunday at the Araneta Coliseum in Cubao with the winner grabbing a share of third place.
Ato Agustin, just days after steering San Sebastian to second place in the just-concluded NCAA, will call the shots for San Miguel on a full time basis with Gee Abanilla sliding back to assistant.
Tied at 1-1, both squads will be coming off contrasting fortunes, with the Beermen still licking the wounds of an 83-97 blowout loss to Talk ‘N Text and the crowd-darling Gin Kings hoping to take the momentum of an 82-75 victory over Powerade.
The Tigers and Barako Bull will clash earlier at 4 p.m. with the winner staying within half-a-game of idle pace-setters the Tropang Texters and Alaska.
Agustin was named coach of the Beermen more than three weeks before the start of the season. But the one-time MVP and member of the league’s 25 Greatest list first fulfilled his obligations with the Stags.
He did admit to some members of the media recently that he has been very hands-on in preparing the Beermen. Agustin said he will now implement the same philosophy that he injected to the Stags when they won last year’s NCAA.
And he has an abundance of talent in the San Miguel roster with Dondon Hontiveros, Jay Washington and an ultra-loaded frontline ready to back his running philosophy.
Mark Caguioa, Jay-Jay Helterbrand and former two-time MVP Willie Miller will carry the fight for the Kings.
The Energy Boosters picked up their first win of the season by upsetting newcomer Meralco two weeks ago, and Barako Bull is hoping to play the same kind of defense against the Tigers.
“We can’t outshoot anybody out there,” Barako Bull coach Junel Baculi had told reporters. “But we can out-defend them.”
AIR21 77—Buenafe 21, Gonzales 11, Matias 9, Sharma 9, Baclao 8, Al-Hussaini 5, Arellano 4, Urbiztondo 3, Arboleda 3, Rodriguez 2, Quinahan 2, Najorda 0, Guevarra 0.
DERBY ACE 69—Simon 11, Adducul 10, Villanueva 9, Yap J. 8, Maierhofer 8, Canaleta 6, Yap R. 6, Gaco 5, Salvador 3, Allado 2.
Quarters: 16-18, 33-36, 53-49, 77-69