KG Canaleta provided the fireworks but it was import Zach Graham who delivered the knockout punch as a new-look Air21 side beat skidding Talk ‘N Text, 106-102 to keep its quarterfinal hopes alive in the PBA Governors Cup on Friday at the Philsports Arena.
Canaleta exploded for 14 of his game-high 30 points in the fourth quarter, including six three-pointers for an Express team that looked energized by the arrival of new recruits Asi Taulava and Joseph Yeo.
“KG played well because he stretched the floor for us. He gave us a little outside and inside presence,” said a beaming Air21 coach Franz Pumaren of the many-time PBA Slam Dunk champion.
Graham finished what Canaleta started, scoring six of the team’s last eight points including two pressure-packed free throws that sealed Air21's second win in seven games in the season-ending conference.
Taulava, acquired from Meralco in a trade for Mike Cortez, debuted for the Express with seven points, nine rebounds, six assists and two blocks in 32 minutes while Yeo had three points and three assists in 10 minutes of play.
The Fil-Tongan’s presence enabled the Express to keep up with the physical and tall Tropang Texters frontline as they won the battle of the boards, 52-50.
“With the addition of Asi, we’re an entirely different team and also with Joseph Yeo but again, he still has the respect of other team,” said the Air21 sophomore head coach.
“He (Taulava) gives us energy and the intangible things. I think we are inspired with the change of lineup.”
Tony Mitchell bounced back from a sub-par seven-point performance on Wednesday, with 27 points and nine rebounds but couldn't save the Texters from falling to their third straight defeat.
Air21 106 - Canaleta 30, Graham 27, Custodio 12, Manuel 10, Menor 7, Taulava 7, Atkins 4, Sharma 4, Yeo 3, Salamat 2, Burtscher 0.
Talk N' Text 102 - Mitchell 27, De Ocampo 19, Anthony 16, CAstro 12, Alapag 10, Fonacier 8, Carey 5, Peek 4, Al-Hussaini 1, Aban 0.
Quarterscores: 22-19, 49-52, 75-75, 106-102