AIR21 rode Niño 'KG' Canaleta’s career night to blast Globalport, 113-92, on Wednesday night and stay in the hunt for a place in the playoffs of the PBA Philippine Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The 30-year-old Tarlac native exploded for a career-high 41 points as the Express improved their win-loss card to 5-9 and moved a step up on Barako Bull, which, at 4-9, must beat Rain or Shine on Friday to tie the Express and force a playoff for the eighth and final berth in the playoffs.
Canaleta's output was the highest in the league since Gary David, now with Globalport, came away with 42 markers in Powerade’s 108-84 victory over Petron on October 20, 2011.
“I think everybody was frustrated in the game against Ginebra. I think he really played like crap,” Express coach Franz Pumaren said, referring to his team’s last game where they were blown away by the Kings, 99-76, last Friday. “But everybody came into practice after that game determined to bounce back.”
The high-flying Canaleta singlehandedly broke the game wide open in the second period, where he fired 16 markers to help the Express turn a one-point first-quarter deficit into a five-point halftime lead they never relinquished.
The lead grew to as big as 25 points, after James Sena, who had 18 points and five boards, converted a charity late in the third quarter to make it 86-61 for the Express.
The already-eliminated Batang Pier tried to make the game interesting in the payoff period as they cut the lead to 12 points after Rabeh Al-Hussaini, who topscored for his squad with 20 points, made a short stab off a pass from David midway through the quarter.
But Canaleta again waxed hot as the five-time slam-dunk champion retaliated with nine straight points — a three-pointer, a rare four-point play, and a one-handed slam off an alley-oop pass from Mike Cortez — to seal the deal.
The Batang Pier remained at the cellar after suffering their 12th loss against a lone victory.
“They’re out of the race already making me wary of them,” Pumaren said. “That’s why I was so intense from the start because I didn’t want them to get their bearing, their momentum.”
“It’s so hard to play a team when they’re already out,” he added. “But anyway we have done our job today. Hopefully , we just have to wait depending on next games.”
The Express are naturally hoping for a Rain or Shine win over Barako Bull.
“Of course we want Rain or Shine to win. But it’s out of our hands already, we’re just going to prepare for our next game. We didn’t want to get into a situation where we will be dependent to the result of other games,” Pumaren said.
AIR21 113 – Canaleta 41, Sena 18, Reyes 12, Arboleda 8, Omolon 7, Wilson 6, Cortez 5, Ritualo 5, Custodio 4, Isip 4, Andaya 2, Baclao 1, Atkins 0
GLOBALPORT 92 – Al-Hussaini 20, David 16, Manuel 11, Salvador 11, Mandani 8, Guevarra 5, Antonio 5, Yee 4, Miller 4, Lingganay 3, Vanlandingham 3, Vergara 2, Deutchman 0, Crisano 0
Quarterscores: 30-31, 60-55, 87-67, 113-92