TALK ‘N Text moved a step closer to clinching a twice-to-beat incentive after nosing out a tough Air21 five, 100-94, in the PBA Philippine Cup at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum on Sunday night.
Jimmy Alapag stood tall offensively in the payoff period for the defending champions, nailing two big three-point shots just as the Express were threatening to make a run to allow the Tropang Texters to escape with their 10th win in 12 starts.
“It was a pretty tough game for us. Actually, in the first round, Air21 played tough also against us. Our defense was not good as it was the last game. But at this point of the season, the important thing is for us to get one of the top two slots,” said Talk `N Text coach Norman Black.
“I do give credit to Air21 because it played tough defense against us today.”
The Express absorbed their third straight loss and drop to 4-8 overall, giving the struggling Barako Bull a window of opportunity for a shot at a quarterfinal slot.
Air21 fought valiantly against the reigning champions, staying within 85-88 on a wide-open triple by Ren-Ren Ritualo with 4:45 left in the game.
But Kelly Williams scored two free throws, before Alapag nailed a booming three-pointer that gave the Tropang Texters enough cushion to stay on top.
“He made some clutch shots and brought some energy to the court,” Black said, referring to Alapag.
Black said he wasn’t satisfied with the way they played against the Express, considering that they were coming off a huge 92-63 whipping of San Mig Coffee on Wednesday.
Yet, he was thankful that Alapag rose to the challenge to bail his team out of danger with one big shot after another.
Alapag led the Tropang Texters with 18 points, spiked with four triples to go along with six assists and two rebounds.
Three other Talk ‘N Text players scored in double figures – Jayson Castro and Ranidel de Ocampo with 16 points apiece and Larry Fonacier with 11.
The Express drew 23 points and nine rebounds from point guard Mike Cortez, while James Sena added 18 and six boards.
Talk ‘N Text 100 - Alapag 18, Castro 16, De Ocampo 16, Fonacier 11, Williams 9, Peek 9, Dillinger 8, Carey 8, Reyes 2, Aban 2, Alvarez 1
Air21 94 - Cortez 23, Sena 18, Canaleta 13, Isip 9, Arboleda 8, Ritualo 7, Custodio 6, Atkins 4, Reyes 4, Omolon 2, Baclao 0
Quarter scores: 20-19, 51-48, 70-69, 100-94