AIR21 coach Franz Pumaren sees positives in defeat and said the Express' first loss in the PBA Governors Cup hardly deflated his players’ confidence.
The team's two-game streak was snapped Tuesday night as Ginebra took solo lead with an 84-76 win, a result which Pumaren says should encourage the Express in a way.
He noted the Express were able to limit the Kings’ production to just 84 points, compared to the 92 they posted during their first two games.
“I think we’re okay. Just remember, Ginebra was averaging close to 92 or 93 points per game before this game (on Tuesday). And they just scored 84,” explained Pumaren, who guided Air21 to a franchise-best fourth place finish in the recent Commissioner’s Cup.
The Express were still very much within the game with still one minute left following Asi Taulava’s split free throws, 76-81.
But hulking import Dominique Sutton missed four straight foul shots down the stretch, while Ginebra rookie Greg Slaughter completed a three-point play to seal Air21’s first defeat after a franchise-best 2-0 start.
“It’s one of those games. There’s no reason for us to start thinking of a lot of things, but we just have to overcome that,” Pumaren said, referring to the team’s failure to finish strong in the end, something the Express have actually done well during their first two games this conference.
And Air21’s free throw woes in the game?
“We always do that (shooting free throws in practice). It’s just more of a psychological thing that’s why I’ve been stressing, the minute you go to the free throw line, (you have to) think of going in,” said Pumaren, who won a total of five UAAP championships before taking over as Shopinas’ (Air21’s former name) head coach at the start of the 2011-12 season.
Air21 returns to action on Friday when it faces Alaska at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.