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    Franz challenges Air21 locals to raise games ahead of crunch clash

    Jun 19, 2012
    Coach Franz Pumaren says high-scoring import  Zachary Graham can't do it on his own for Air21. Jerome Ascano

    Air21 and Meralco hope to keep their fading playoff aspirations alive when they face off on Wednesday in the PBA Governors’ Cup at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.

    With a 2-4 win-loss mark, the Bolts have a better chance of making the next round than the Express, who are mathematically still in semifinal contention despite having one win less than Meralco.

    The Bolts and Express square off in the opener at 5:15 p.m.

    Air21 boasts a Best Import candidate in Zachary Graham, but have few scoring options after him.

    Graham had a monster game in their 109-100 loss to Barako Bull, tallying 41 points and 17 rebounds in 41 minutes. But shooter Ren Ren Ritualo failed to score a point.

    The lone bright spot for the Air21 locals was third-year forward James Sena, who registered 16 points and 12 boards.

    Express coach Franz Pumaren hopes his veterans like Mark Isip, Bitoy Omolon, and Wynne Arboleda would increase their production for them to have a chance.

    “Our import can’t do it on his own,” Pumaren said on Tuesday. “We need well-balanced scoring help from our locals.”

    Meralco, on the other hand, has had no shortage of manpower with import Mario West, Macmac Cardona, Sol Mercado, and the rejuvenated Asi Taulava at the forefront of their attack.

    The Bolts have always given themselves a chance to win in the past few games, keeping the score close down the stretch. But they just could not close it out.

    In their 81-77 loss against Rain or Shine the last time out, the Bolts were still up, 77-76, after a top-of-the key jumper from Sol Mercado with 50.5 seconds remaining, before the Painters scored the last five points to escape with the win.

    Continue reading below ↓

    In the 7:30 p.m. nightcap, Talk N Text and Barako Bull collide with both teams also trying to boost their chances of making the next round.

    The Energy hope to bounce back after bowing to Rain or Shine, 100-90, last time, while the Texters try to keep the momentum of their 80-72 out-of-town win over Alaska.

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    Coach Franz Pumaren says high-scoring import  Zachary Graham can't do it on his own for Air21. Jerome Ascano
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