A PUMPED-UP Air21 vented all its frustrations on a lackluster Barako Bull side to book its first win of the season, 92-77, in their PLDT myDSL-PBA Philippine Cup match on Saturday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Last season’s Most Improved Player Nino Canaleta had a double-double effort of 19 points and 10 rebounds as Air21 ended a string of five losses while avenging a 75-88 loss to this same Barako Bull team two weeks ago.
Joseph Yeo bounced back from a subpar game against Alaska with 13 points, eight rebounds and six assists while his former La Salle teammate Macmac Cardona added 13 points, five boards, four boards and three steals.
“If you look at our last two games before this, that’s the team we’re projecting to see for this conference,” said Air21 coach Franz Pumaren.
“The first three games were really horrific because we didn’t play defense but the last three games, including this one, we prove to ourselves that we can play defense,” he added.
Barako Bull, which was averaging more than 10 three-point shots made this conference before the game, could only go 3-of-27 from beyond the arc against the Express.
So effective was Air21’s perimeter defense that Barako Bull’s usually reliable gunners like Ronjay Buenafe (0-of-4), Mark Macapagal (0-of-3) and rookie guard Jeric Fortuna (0-of-4) all fired blanks.
Willie Miller and rookie Carlo Lastimosa were the only players to make three-point shots for Barako, which lost its third straight game after starting the season with back-to-back victories.
Lastimosa led the Energy Cola with 15 points in his first game as a pro.