AIR21 import Michael Dunigan just turned from hero to goat.
Two crucial Dunigan turnovers inside the final minute cost the Express what appeared to be a won game against the Meralco Bolts, 88-89, in their PBA Commissioner’s Cup match on Wednesday night.
The last of those two miscues by the versatile import led to two free throws by Chris Ross at the other end for the marginal baskets.
Dunigan offered no excuses for his endgame boo-boos, referring to them as an "endgame brain fart."
“I forced the pass even when we were up. Probably it was a mental mistake on the game. I just had a little bit brain fart in the game,” Dunigan told Spin.ph shortly after the Express’ fifth straight loss in the mid-season conference.
Until that crucial turnover in the final 49 seconds, the 24-year-old product of University of Oregon was on a scoring rampage, hitting 30 of his conference-high 40 points in the second half, including 14 of the Express’ last 20.
Dunigan said his intention was to simply try to milk the clock with Air21 protecting a slim 88-87 lead, when he made an ill-advised cross-court pass to Mark Isip.
Ross read the play perfectly and stole the ball, and was immediately fouled by Isip for two free throws. The Meralco Fil-Am guard sank both foul shots for the final count as Mike Cortez again turned the ball over in the Express' final offensive play.
“We just need to keep getting better. It took us a while to get going, but as always, we just need to learn how to finish the game,” added Dunigan.
The Air21 import is coming off an anemic 15-point game against Petron in a low-scoring game the Boosters won, 60-53 win.
But following another slow start against the Bolts, Dunigan came out like a house on fire in the second half, mocking the Meralco defense by repeatedly scoring in the inside with dunks, layups, and tip-ins on the way to a 40-point performance.
Still, Dunigan remains hopeful the close-game losses would serve as lesson for the Express in their bid to come out a better team in their succeeding games, the next of which will be against Globalport Batang Pier on Sunday at the Big Dome.