AS the post-game press conference after Air21’s 102-100 win over Talk ‘N Text on Wednesday was about to end, Express coach coach Franz Pumaren glanced at the stats sheet and marveled at the numbers put up by rejuvenated big man Asi Taulava
“It’s just like looking at Asi’s stats eight years ago,” Pumaren beamed as he admited the stats line of the PBA’s oldest player who registered his seventh double-double of the Philippine Cup with 23 points and 18 boards on top of two assists and one block.
While it was Joseph Yeo’s end-game heroics that propelled the team to its third victory in 12 games, it was Taulava’s game-long post presence that kept the Express in the game.
“Asi really gave us a big lift. He really dominated the paint,” Pumaren said of the 40-year-old center, whose seven double-doubles is only second behind Petron counterpart June Mar Fajardo’s eight.
Taulava said his love for competition keeps him going.
“It’s just great to compete out there with these younger guys,” Taulava said. “I’m in shape, still feel great. Whatever coach Franz asks me to do, I try to go out there and give it a hundred-and-ten percent, and win or lose, I’m happy with the result.”
Taulava said it is the same case with recently signed Meralco Bolt Danny Ildefonso, who impressed in his debut in a 92-88 win over the Express last weekend.
“Coming off three months of layoff, he’s taking all these young bigs to school. That’s a testament that us old guys, we’re not washed up,” Taulava said.
One Texter who tried to test the mettle of Taulava was pesky defender Sean Anthony as both big men had a scuffle a few times.
“I love the challenge especially when I see some of these cocky young guys, I try to bring them down. I just don’t want to go out there and compete, I’m born to come after you.”
But his altercation with the 27-year-old Anthony was nothing personal, Taulava insisted.
“We were just jockeying for position. I wasn’t giving an inch. He wasn’t giving an inch, and I’m trying to fight for survival for us to have a chance to make the playoffs.”
The Express need to win their last two games to make the next round. They take on San Mig Coffee next on Saturday.