MARK Isip hit the game-winning jumper with 6.1 seconds to rescue Air21 Express from a fiery Alaska Milk fightback, 104-103, on Wednesday night’s PBA Philippine Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Isip's mid-range jumper off Alaska slotman Sonny Thoss bailed out the Express who blew a 17-point lead in the face of a searing Alaska rally led by Mac Baracael and rookie Calvin Abueva.
“You have to give it to Alaska. They were there. And they were so aggressive. We relaxed a little bit,” said Air21 coach Franz Pumaren after the Express' third successive victory.
Coming off a timeout, the Aces had two opportunities to win the game but JV Casio completely misfired a Mike Cortez-contested three-point attempt, while Abueva’s desperate attempt from the corner off his own offensive rebound likewise fell short.
“We were in control of the game for most of the time, but it's a good thing we were able to regroup and we kept our poise. We did well to make some stops,” added Pumaren, whose team ties idle Barangay Ginebra at 4-5, while moving just half-a-game behind the Aces, who fell to 5-5.
Air21 led by as many as 59-42 late in the first half on a three-point shot from John Wilson. But Alaska managed to regroup after intermission.
Baracael scored 18 of his game-high 24 points in the second half as the Luigi Trillo-mentored squad managed to take the lead, 103-102, time down to 23.2 seconds.
But Air21 managed to show better poise, thanks to Cortez, the team’s newly-acquired point guard, who was responsible for setting up Isip for the game-winning shot.
“If you look at the conference, this is the first time we beat a .500 team. I hope we could sustain it. I also hope Mike will be 80 or 90 percent in game shape already when we face Rain or Shine,” said Pumaren.