MACMAC Cardona, Asi Taulava, and Joseph Yeo lifted Air21 from the depths of an 18-point deficit as the Express completed a remarkable second half fightback to pull off a heart-stopping 109-103 overtime victory over Globalport in the first game of a PLDT myDSL-PBA Philippine Cup Christmas Day doubleheader at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Cardona nailed a tough, off-balance shot against Sol Mercado’s leech-like defense. He then came down with a crucial defensive rebound and a pair of foul shots in the final nine seconds to snap the Express’ three-game losing skid.
“At least, the slump is done already,” said an ecstatic Air21 coach Franz Pumaren, heaving a sigh of relief after the team booked just its second win in 10 outings this season.
“This is the type of team we are trying to envision. That even when we were down by 16 or 17, we just didn’t quit. I think that’s an improvement from our last game.”
Cardona, who missed the team’s 100-114 first round loss to Globalport, provided the much-needed energy boost for the Express, who trailed by as many as 18 points midway in the second period.
The 6-foot-1 Cardona, nicknamed `Captain Hook', along with Taulava finished with 28 points apiece, while Yeo had his first career triple-double of 19 points, 10 rebounds, and 14 assists for the Express.
The 6-foot-9 Taulava, even at 40, remains a solid force in the middle for the Express as he added 13 rebounds, including several layups towards the end of regulation play and early in the extension period, before fouling out of the game.
“Terrific effort by our Santa Claus Asi. He glued our team together. And of course, Joseph had his first career triple-double. I think he didn’t imagine getting a career 14 assists,” said Pumaren.
“Macmac also gave us the lift, the energy. But it’s a total team effort. We didn’t quit when we were down.”
The Express mentor hinted of about a roster revamp come January through trades after getting the full backing of management.
“Despite of us losing, we’re still upbeat with our current negotiation. We’ve been talking with management because we’ve been trying to get additional support so by January, we’ll get some new guys in our first game (for 2014),” he added.
Globalport, which dropped to 4-5, drew 35 points from Sol Mercado, while Jay Washington added 21 and nine boards.
Rookie Terrence Romeo added 16, but failed to reprise his PBA career-high 34 points during the first round against the Express after shooting just 1-of-10 from the field.
Air21 (109) -- Taulava 28, Cardona 28, Yeo 19, Manuel 14, Canaleta 11, Camson 5, Jaime 2, Custodio 2, Menor 0, Arboleda 0, Sharma 0.
GlobalPort (103) -- Mercado 35, Washington 21, Romeo 16, Salva 9, Lingganay 7,Menk 5, Salvador 4, Yee 2, Hayes 2, Garcia 2, Nabong 0, Chua 0.
Quarterscores: 21-32; 47-53; 70-66; 93-93 (reg); 109-103.