AIR21 finally found a way to protect a late lead as it defeated Globalport, 106-94, on Sunday at the Araneta Coliseum to remain in the playoff hunt in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup.
The Express likewise spoiled Batang Pier import Walter Sharpe’s debut as they won for the second time in seven games this season and dealt their opponents a sixth loss in eight games.
“This victory eases the pain a little from our previous games,” Express coach Franz Pumaren said. “It was a disappointing past few games, where we lost after leading down the stretch. At least this time, we were able to finish strong.”
Air21 import Michael Dunigan was spectacular anew, following up his 40-point effort against Meralco with 35 points and 20 rebounds for the Express, who also drew 12 points apiece from Mark Isip, Mike Cortez, and Wynne Arboleda.
Sharpe, who replaced Justin Williams, registered 24 points, nine rebounds, two assists, and two steals in his first game for the Batang Pier, but still failed to lead his team to victory.
The new Batang Pier reinforcement, though, made things interesting in the second quarter, when he scored nine points to help the rookie team turn an eight-point first quarter deficit into a three-point halftime lead.
The Express, however, recovered the lead in the second half and never looked back with Dunigan tallying 20 points in the final two quarters.
“Hopefully we can sustain this but it’s a short celebration for us because we’re playing Alaska, one of the best teams right now, next,” Pumaren said.
Air 21 (106) - Dunigan 35, Isip 12, Cortez 12, Arboleda 12, Omolon 9, Wilson 8, Canaleta 8, Ritualo 6, Custodio 4, Atkins 0, Baclao 0.
Globalport (94) - Sharpe 24, David 20, Mandani 13, Miller 12, Mercado 8, Aguilar 6, Aljamal 4, Salvador 4, Yee 3, Antonio 0.
Quarterscores: 23-15, 47-50, 78-71, 106-94