AIR21 dealt the knockout punch to Alaska’s twice-to-beat hopes with a convincing 121-107 victory to close out its elimination-round campaign on a high note in the PBA Governors Cup on Sunday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Air21‘s rookie guard Simon Atkins chalked up a personal career-high 22 points spiked by six triples as he triggered a rampaging offensive by the Express, who are likely to miss the quarterfinals despite the victory.
Air21 ended its elims schedule with a 3-6 record and won't get a playoff for a Final Eight berth unless Talk 'N Text beats Ginebra by at least 23 points in the day's other match which was being played at posting time.
“We had a good start because of his (Atkins) torrid shooting. I mean, there’s no substitute to hard work because he’s the first one to be in the gym and the last man to step out,” Air21 coach Franz Pumaren said of his freshman guard.
Atkins' 6-of-6 three-point shooting equalled an all-time record for most three-point field goals made in a game without a miss, joining retired players Glen Capacio and Vic Pablo, Dondon Hontiveros of Alaska and Atkins’ own teammate Ren-ren Ritualo.
Pumaren said the acquisition of 40-year-old center Asi Taulava and gunner Joseph Yeo the last two weeks will make them a force to be reckoned with next season.
On the other hand, the loss came at the worst time for the Aces, who blew an opportunity to force a playoff for the fourth seeding with Rain or Shine on Monday.
The Alaska loss dropped the reigning Commissioner’s Cup champion to No. 7, which will have the Aces facing twice-to-beat second seed San Mig Coffee in the quarterfinals.
Import Zach Graham led the Express with 27 points and 10 boards. Yeo added 21 points and seven assists while KG Canaleta added 16.
Alaska drew 43 points and 16 boards for import Wendell McKInes, while Cyrus Baguio added 18.
Air 21 121 - Graham 27, Atkins 22, Yeo 21, Canaleta 16, Manuel 12, Custodio 10, Taulava 7, Sharma 4, Menor 2, Omolon 0.
Alaska 107 - McKines 43, Baguio 18, Thoss 17, Abueva 15, Casio 12, Dela Cruz 2, Reyes 0, Jazul 0, Eman 0, Espinas 0, Hontiveros 0, Belasco 0.
Quarterscores: 35-28, 63-54, 90-83, 121-107