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PBA: Express on top

Eric Wise, Dave Marcelo, Eric Camson and Asi Taulava

by Waylon Galvez

Manila, Philippines – Again proving it is a serious threat for another playoff run, Air21 earned its second straight win by downing Barako Bull, 101-86, and staying perfect in the season-ending PBA PLDT Home Telpad Governors’ Cup yesterday at the Mall of Asia Arena.

Air21 import Dominique Sutton again finished with a solid performance as he collected 24 points and 16 rebounds while veteran Asi Taulava added 22 points and 12 boards.

Protecting a slim lead entering the fourth quarter (80-72), the Express used 12-2 run with Jonas Villanueva and Mac Cardona each nailing three-pointers that gave Air21 a 92-74 advantage with 7:52 left.

The closest Barako Bull got was nine points from there. Joseph Yeo buried a triple off a Barako Bull turnover and Sutton scored under the basket as Air21 again took control, 97-81, with 4:41 to go.

It was Air21’s second straight win after stunning Rain or Shine (103-96) last Tuesday. The 2-0 start of Air21 is a franchise-best since the ballclub – formerly known as Shopinas.Com – started competing in the PBA in 2011.

“We are playing within a system using our advantage and strength,” said Air21 mentor Franz Pumaren, whose team made the semifinal round last conference and came within a win of advancing to the finals.

The Governors’ Cup continues at the MOA Arena as Grand Slamseeking San Mig Super Coffee takes on San Miguel Beer today at 5:15 p.m., right after the 3 p.m. game between Globalport and winless Rain or Shine.

The Mixers opened their title-retention campaign with a 76-66 victory against Barako Bull last Wednesday – the team’s third straight since winning Games 3 and 4 of the best-of-five Finals to win the Commissioner’s Cup against Talk ’N Text two weeks ago.

San Mig will face the Beermen who won Friday evening against Rain or Shine (97-92) for their first win this conference for a 1-1 card, currently tied with Globalport and Alaska.

First game:
AIR21 101 – Sutton 24, Taulava 22, Yeo 17, Cardona 16, Ramos 8, Camson 8, Villanueva 3, Atkins 3, Borboran 0, Jaime 0, Poligrates 0, Burtscher 0.

BARAKO BULL 86 – Wise 24, Fortuna 13, Lastimosa 10, Najorda 10, Buenafe 10, Miranda 4, Jensen 2, Wilson 2, Marcelo 2, Thiele 0, Deutchman 0, Intal 0.

Quarters: 25-22; 52-45; 80-72; 101-86.

Second game:
GINEBRA 95 — Mason 32, Slaughter 22, Baracael 11, Ellis 9, Aguilar 4, Tenorio 4, Caguioa 4, Monfort 3, Reyes 2, Helterbrand 2, Mamaril 2, Ababou 0.

MERALCO 82 — Williams 26, Hodge 19, David 12, Dillinger 11, Hugnatan 8, Ildefonso 2, Caram 2, Wilson 2, Timberlake 0, Salvacion 0.

Quarters: 18-28; 46-43; 68-61; 95-82