MACMAC Cardona took charge at crunch time while Aldrech Ramos nailed the clutch shot from the corner with 13.4 seconds to go as Air21 pulled off a 91-88 victory over Alaska in their PBA Governors Cup match on Friday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The Express showed a lot of heart, particularly in the final three minutes when they survived the Aces’ furious 11-2 charge that turned a four-point deficit into an 86-82 lead.
But Ramos’ two foul shots touched off Air21’s 9-2 windup while Cardona’s booming triple, followed by a hang-time move against Cyrus Baguio and Sonny Thoss’ defense gave the lead back to the Express, 89-86.
Two late turnovers by JV Casio as well as a miss from the three-point arc late in the game sealed Alaska’s first loss under new coach Alex Compton.
“It’s a nice win for us despite us playing terrible, we survived it,” said Air21 coach Franz Pumaren, whose team moved up to a share of second place with idle San Miguel Beer at 3-1.
“What’s important is we don’t show our frustration. Despite being down, we made sure we clawed back and didn’t quit,” he added.
Pumaren also heaped praises on Cardona for stepping up just when the Express were looking for a leader on the floor in the final 60 seconds of the game.
“They didn’t quit and Macmac really stepped up. He made some ridiculous shots, some big shots and gave us enough cushion,” said Pumaren.
Alaska went down to an even 2-2 record under Compton, who succeeded Luigi Trillo just last weekend and steered the Aces to a 103-91 win over Talk ‘N Text on Tuesday.
Casio led the Aces with 18 points, including six three-point shots, while import Henry 'Bill' Walker finished with a near triple-double effort of 13 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists.
Dominique Sutton led the Express with 22 points, 10 rebounds, four steals and three assists.
AIR21 91 - Sutton 22, Taulava 15, Cardona 14, Borboran 11, Yeo 10, Ramos 6, Atkins 6, Villanueva 3, Poligrates 2, Camson 2, Villanueva E. 0, Jaime 0, Burtscher 0.
ALASKA 88 - Casio 18, Walker 13, Espinas 12, Baguio 12, Jazul 8, Abueva 7, Thoss 6, Belasco 5, Hontiveros 5, Manuel 2, Dela Cruz 0.
Quarterscores: 19-29, 35-38, 67-64, 91-88