TWO time reigning champion Talk ‘N Text turned to its vaunted running game and outside shooting to stop Air21, 96-89, and secure the solo lead in the PBA Philippine Cup Wednesday night at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Riding on the red-hot shooting of veteran point guard Jimmy Alapag, the Tropang Texters stepped on the gas in the third period and turned around an eight-point deficit into a 76-67 lead going into the final 12 minutes of the game.
The diminutive Alapag, coming off a strained left calf muscle injury a week ago, fired eight of his game total 16 points during that crucial stretch. He finished the game behind a 4-of-6 shooting from beyond the arc, while adding three rebounds, and four assists to lead Talk ‘N Text to a 3-0 win-loss record.
The Express absorbed their second straight loss and dropped to a tie with newcomer Globalport Batang Pier at the cellar with identical 1-3 records.
“We did play much better in the second half than in the first half. We were able to cut off their (Express) secondary breaks and fast breaks. And we switched bigger players to guard KG (Canaleta) so he could have difficulty scoring on the post,” said Talk ‘N Text coach Norman Black, who’s only in his second game coaching the defending champions.
Talk ‘N Text actually had four players scoring in double-figures in yet another display of balance scoring. Ranidel de Ocampo led the team with 19 points, on a dominant 8-of-11 shooting from two-point field. The 6-foot-5 forward added six rebounds, and three assists.
Jayson Casto and Kelly Williams had 14 points apiece.
Despite the win, Black said the Tropang Texters still have a lot to improve, particularly on the defensive end as they prepare for their much-awaited match up against San Mig Coffee – the only other unbeaten team – this Saturday.
Black however, did mention his team will try to capitalize on executing the free-flow offense, which has somehow worked wonders for the team the past two seasons.
“We were just running our free flowing offense in the second half. It really worked a lot on our game, allowing guys to pop out and score. At the very least, we can go back to the free flowing game which we did in the last few years,” noted the multi-titled PBA coach.
Canaleta paced the Express with 21 points, while John Wilson and Wynne Arboleda finished with 18 and 14 points, respectively.
Talk ‘N Text (96) -- De Ocampo 19, Alapag 16, Castro 14, Williams 14, Reyes 9, Fonacier 8, Dillinger 6, Ferriols 4, Carey 3, Peek 3, Gamalinda 0.
Air21 (89) -- Canaleta 21, Wilson 18, Arboleda 14, Omolon 10, Isip 8, Baclao 7, Ritualo 5, Atkins 2, Sena 2, Escobal 2, Taha 0.
Quarterscores: 20-28, 45-50, 76-67, 96-89.