RONALD Tubid scored four of Barako Bull’s last five points, including a huge tip-in off teammate Enrico Villanueva’s muffed layup as the Energy Cola carved out a hard-earned 90-87 win over Air21 Express on Wednesday night to kick off its Philippine Cup campaign on a high note at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
After Tubid’s basket with 9.2 seconds left to play, Air21 coach Franz Pumaren sued for time to map out a play designed for KG Canaleta. Bonbon Custodio managed to set up Canaleta at the corner for a three-point attempt, but the former UE Red Warrior bungled his last-second heave, allowing Barako Bull to escape with the win.
“We last played together nung tune-up game, about two weeks ago. We have a lot of new faces in our team. So we have to build up chemistry as soon as possible. Because of our new recruits and new rookies, we struggled defensively the whole night,” Barako Bull coach Junel Baculi said.
Barako Bull’s lack of cohesion was evident throughout the match as it struggled to get the ball past the pressing defense of Air21. Even with newly acquired veteran playmaker Josh Urbiztondo calling the plays, the Energy Cola had difficulty setting the plays as they turned the ball over 25 times, which the Express converted into 27 turnover points.
The loss extended the Express’ losing streak in the Philippine Cup to 15 straight games, dating back to last season when the team was still known as the Shopinas Clickers.
Still, Baculi gave credit to Air21 for giving his squad a hard time.
“Hats off ako sa Air21. They have improved a lot. We didn’t respect them in the first half. But come the second half, I told them, we have to respect their shots and abilities,” said Baculi.
Fil-Am Danny Seigle missed the Air21 game due to flu, but Baculi said, his prized veteran swingman will be ready next week when the Energy Cola clash with the powerful Petron Blaze Boosters.
Sean Anthony, whom Barako Bull acquired in a trade last August, earned Best Player of the Game honor after helping the team with 18 points, nine rebounds and five assists.
On the other hand, Nonoy Baclao led the Express’ losing cause with a career-high 18 points, eclipsing his previous 11 points, which he made on December 5, 2010, incidentally against Barako Bull.
And though Air21 has bulked up its frontline with the acquisition of Baclao, Canaleta and rookie 6’8” center Yousif Taha, the Express were still beaten off the boards by the Energy Cola, 56-34.
Barako Bull (90) - Tubid 19, Anthony 18, Kramer 14, Pennisi 11, Urbiztondo 8, Najorda 7, Villanueva 7, Yap 4, Marcelo 2, Cervantes 0, Cruz 0.
Air21 (87) - Baclao 18, Wilson 17, Isip 16, Canaleta 16, Arboleda 7, Custodio 4, Omolon 4, Sena 3, Taha 2, Atkins 0, Ritualo 0.
Quarters: 26-27, 49-48, 71-69, 90-87