With the way Air21 has been losing games lately, head coach Franz Pumaren said he hopes his players will learn to rise and stand together, particularly in the endgame.
“When you look at our losses, they were all close games,” Pumaren told Spin.ph after his team dropped a heartbreaking 97-99 loss to Rain or Shine on Wednesday night at the Big Dome.
“Somebody has to assume responsibility for this team. At the same time, aside from Mike (Cortez), they all have to jive together,” he added.
Cortez, whom Air21 acquired in the middle of the All-Filipino conference, made a bad inbound pass that led to Jireh Ibanes’ crucial steal to preserve the Elasto Painters’ third straight win in four starts.
The Express have dropped to the lower half of the standings with their 1-3 record, in a tie with defending champion San Mig Coffee Mixers, with no relief in sight.
Import Michael Dunigan scored 17 of his 22 points in the second half as he dominated the paint with Rain or Shine’s 7-3 import Bruno Sundov fouling out late in the game.
But Pumaren said his team simply can't rely on the 6-9 former University of Oregon standout.
“What has been happening to us the past games has something to do with the mental aspect. We really need to have a strong finishing kick,” he said.
“But hopefully, we could weather the storm and finish well in the coming games.”
Air21 has one day to regroup and make adjustments before plunging back into action on Friday night against the surging Petron Blaze squad at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.