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PBA: Air21 pips Barako

Games Today (Smart Araneta)
3 p.m. – Globalport vs Rain or Shine
5:15 p.m. – Ginebra vs Talk ’N Text

PBA2013 Phil Cup LogoManila, Philippines – After losing five games, Air21 finally found a way to win last night.

The Express put together a solid performance from start to finish, dictating the game’s tempo all throughout to score a convincing 92-77 victory over Barako Bull in the 2014 PLDT myDSL PBA Philippine Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Rommel “Nino” Canaleta came through with a double-double effort for the Express with 19 points – going 3-of-5 from three-point territory – while adding 10 rebounds as Air21 finally scored its first win in the ‘Petron Saturday Special’ of the pro league.

Joseph Yeo and Mark Cardona each contributed 13 points for the Express, with the former also collecting eight rebounds and six assists while Cardona, acquired in an off-season trade from Meralco, added four assists and three steals.

“It’s a dramatic improvement on our part. The first three games were really horrific,” said Air21 head coach Franz Pumaren, whose team lost to Barako Bull in their first meeting this Philippine Cup (88-75) last Nov. 20.

“Slowly we’re getting used to getting together. Our rotation was thrown off guard ‘coz of injuries to some key players. But the gorilla is off our back. Sometimes I am amazed with our team. Everybody’s still upbeat, we’re still confident,” added Pumaren.

Veteran point guard Wynne Arboleda also had a solid game with 12 points on 3-of-4 shooting from three-point range, while Vic Manuel added 11 markers. Veteran center Asi Taulava only had five points but collared 12 boards.

The Express controlled the rebounding department, 57-41.

The setback was Barako Bull’s third straight after a 2-0 start. The Energy Cola fell into a tie with three other teams – Alaska, Globalport and Meralco – all with 2-3 cards.

Carlo Lastimosa led Barako Bull with 15 points, while Mark Isip and former two-time MVP Willie Miller added 12 points each.

In the other game, Petron eked out an 86-85 win over the Alaska Aces to remain unbeaten in the team standings.

Meanwhile, fresh from huge wins the other day, Rain or Shine and Globalport ride that momentum when they clash today at the Big Dome.

Game time is at 3 p.m. preceding the 5:15 p.m. encounter between Barangay Ginebra San Miguel and defending champion Talk ’ N Text.

Ginebra and Talk ’N Text are tied at third and fourth spots with similar 3-1 cards, although the Kings dropped their last game, a 100-87 shocker against Meralco, while the Tropang Texters have won two in a row, beating Alaska in overtime (114-111) and Globalport (106-93) last week.

Rain or Shine is coming off an 86-83 victory over San Mig Friday night as Paul Lee, the 2012 top rookie, fired a career-best 26 points, including 11 in the fourth frame on 10-of-15 shooting.

The scores:
First Game:

Air21 92 – Canaleta 19, Yeo 13, Cardona 13, Arboleda 12, Manuel 11, Custodio 9, Camson 6, Taulava 5, Espiritu 2, Sharma 2, Matias 0.

Barako Bull 77 – Lastimosa 15, Isip 12, Miller 12, Labagala 10, Buenafe 9, Pennisi 5, Fortuna 4, Intal 4, Macapagal 2, Jensen 2, Wilson 2, Pena 0, Villanueva 0.

Quarters: 17-10, 37-31, 66-58, 92-77.

Second game:
Petron 86 – Fajardo 20, Lutz 15, Santos 15, Lassiter 12, Hubalde 10, Kramer 9, Duncil 3, Lanete 2, Deutchman 0.

Alaska 85 – Jazul 18, Abueva 17, Espinas 11, Thoss 9, Baguio 9, Casio 8, Buenafe 3, Belasco 2, Dela Cruz 2, Hontiveros 2, Avenido 2, Exciminiano 2, Ramos 0, Eman 0.

Quarters: 17-17, 35-37, 56-56, 86-85