TALK 'N Text squandered a 24-point lead but managed to hold on mainly through the timely baskets of import Keith Benson, escaping with a 86-83 win over a fighting Air21 side on Friday night in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
KG Canaleta played through flu as he almost single-handedly carried the Express back from the depths of a double-digit deficit, hitting five of his seven three-pointers in a stretch that saw the unfancied team claw within 77-78 of Talk 'N Text, time down to three minutes and nine seconds.
The 6-11 Benson, however, came through with back-to-back baskets, including a completed three-point play to save the day for the Tropang Texters.
Air21 had one final shot to send the game into overtime, but Bonbon Custodio’s last-second attempt from three-point land off a broken play failed to find the mark, allowing Talk ‘N Text to chalk up its first victory this conference.
“It got a little bit scary in the end with KG hitting those three-point shots. They (Express) went small in their lineup and it worked to their advantage. Luckily, we had some stops down the stretch,” said a relieved Talk ‘N Text coach Norman Black.
Two of the Tropang Texters’ top guns – Kelly Williams and Jimmy Alapag - went scoreless in the game, but Ranidel de Ocampo and Jared Dillinger carried the offensive load for the locals to support Benson.
Benson bounced back from a quiet PBA debut in a loss to Meralco as he led the Tropang Texters with 30 points, 18 rebounds, two steals and two blocks in 36 minutes of action.
Canaleta led the Express with 23 points on seven-of-13 shooting from beyond the arc, to go along with six rebounds, two assists and three steals.
Import Michael Dunigan, who led the Express in their 74-70 win against the Barangay Ginebra Kings on Sunday, had a quiet 19 points, seven rebounds and three blocks.
Talk ‘N Text 86 - Benson 30, De Ocampo 19, Dillinger 14, Reyes 8, Al-Hussaini 5, Castro 5, Fonacier 5, Williams 0, Alapag 0, Carey 0
Air21 83 - Canaleta 23, Dunigan 19, Cortez 11, Custodio 8, Baclao 5, Ritualo 5, Wilson 4, Menor 2, Reyes 2, Isip 2, Arnoleda 2, Omolon 0
Quarterscores: 23-18, 52-33, 72-51, 86-83