AIR21 completed a remarkable comeback from a double-digit deficit behind the heads-up plays of KG Canaleta and Michael Dunigan as it nosed out Petron in overtime, 95-91 to complete the quarterfinal cast in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup on Saturday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
The 6’6” Canaleta buried a franchise record-tying nine three-pointers to finish with 37 points and nine rebounds as he led the Express’ mighty second-half comeback from a 17-point first-half deficit.
Despite suffering from leg cramps in the endgame, Canaleta completed a three-point play off Jay Washington’s fourth foul with 1:40 remaining in the extension period that shattered an 89-all count.
Petron missed its last four field goal attempts from there, while Bitoy Omolon and Canaleta combined for three more free throws late in the game that all but settled the outcome.
“It’s a big win for us. At least, we were able to survive. We won’t end up doing playoffs again with Barako Bull,” said a beaming Air21 coach Franz Pumaren after the Express finished up the elimination round with a 6-8 record to grab the eighth and final spot for the quarterfinals.
"And I guess the credit goes to Michael Dunigan. He’s hurting, bothered by a knee injury and forced himself to play today."
The Express’ win rendered the Barako Bull-Globalport match on Sunday as no-bearing since the Energy Cola (4-8) were ousted from contention by Air21's victory.
Dunigan finished with 18 points, 17 rebounds to go along with four blocks in 47 minutes of play for the Express, who were without starting guard Mike Cortez who was nursing a calf injury.
The Express’ victory also dashed the Boosters’ hopes of forcing a playoff for the No. 2 seeding with Rain or Shine as they fell to 8-5 with one game left against Talk ‘N Text next Wednesday.
Import Henry Sims led Petron with 30 points, but he only scored eight points in the second half and overtime.
Air21 95 - Canaleta 37, Dunigan 18, Custodio 14, Arboleda 10, Baclao 6, Isip 4, Omolon 4, Atkins 2, Sena 0, Wilson 0
Petron 91 - Sims 30, Lassiter 23, Washington 15, Fajardo 5, Miranda 5, Lutz 4, Cabagnot 3, Lanete 2, Santos 2, Pena 2, Tubid 0
Quarterscores: 16-29, 44-54, 72-74, 87-all, 95-91