by Tito S. Talao
(Smart Araneta Coliseum)
5:45 p.m. – San Miguel vs Meralco
8 p.m. – Barako Bull vs Barangay Ginebra
Probably on his way home after a dismal first half, debuting Air21 import Herve Lamizana might have just got his work visa extended.
Whether it was stamped indefinite remains to be seen though. But for now Express coach Franz Pumaren wouldn’t mind having the 6-foot-9 former Ivory Coast player around – rebounding, blocking shots and dropping 22-point games.
The fondness didn’t come easy.
“I had to be brutally frank with him at halftime,” said Pumaren after the Express used a strong third quarter to turn back the Globalport Batang Pier, 83-78, last night at the start of the PBA Commissioner’s Cup at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Lamizana, who played for Rutgers in the NCAA and had a stint in the Chinese Basketball Association, only had 2 points in the first 24 minutes, going 1 of 7 from the floor with two missed free throws, 4 rebounds, an assist and a turnover in 21 minutes.
He was incidental when Air21 raced to a 14-2 lead and he was nowhere when Globalport came back to score 31 points in the second quarter and grab a 45-40 lead at halftime.
“I said my piece about what’s expected of him, that an import has to be dominating,” said Pumaren.
Whatever words passed for “brutally frank” were left unsaid during the post-game interview, but their impact was unmistakable when the Express returned for the second half.
Lamizana had 8 points in a 12-2 run as Air21 regained control. And when the Batang Pier, now coached by former University of Santo Tomas mentor Pido Jarencio, closed in at 54-53, the reedy 33-year-old with arms that seem to reach down to knees answered with 7 points in a 10-0 surge as Air21 broke ahead, 73-61, early in the fourth.
Youth-driven Globalport refused to wither in the wake of Lamizana’s second half revival, however, riding the 28-point performance of import Evan Brock, who went 12 of 20 from the free throw line, to rally and wrest the lead, 78-77, with 1:32 left.
But Lamizana made good use of his long limbs and nimble feet with a shifty move at low post and then blocked Brock’s drive after Mark Borboran made it 80-78 from the stripe. Lamizana swatted 5 shots overall, underscoring his defensive potential.
A Mark Macapagal turnover with 18 seconds left on Globalport’s clock then sent Borboran again to the line where he put the game away.
“Nangangapa pa,” said Jarencio.
Air 21 83 — Lamizana 22, Yeo 21, Taulava 14, Cardona 11, Borboran 6, Villanueva 4, Burtscher 2, Sharma 2, Jaime 0, Poligrates 0, Matias 0, Camson 0, Manuel 0.
Globalport 78 — Brock 28, Chua 10, Washington 9, Macapagal 8, Custodio 8, Cabagnot 4, Garcia 4, Romeo 3, Yee 2, Salva 2, Nabong 0, Ponferada 0, Salvador 0.
Quarters: 22-14; 40-45; 66-56; 83-78.
TALK N’ TEXT 85 – De Ocampo 21, Howell 15, Castro 12, Alapag 11, Canaleta 9, Reyes Ry. 8, Fonacier 5, Reyes Ro. 2, Carey 2, Baclao 0.
ALASKA 72 – Dozier 16, Abueva 16, Baguio 13, Thoss 8, Jazul 7, Casio 5, Espinas 3, Dela Cruz 2, Hontiveros 2.
Quarters: 22-22, 45-35, 73-53, 85-72