RICHARD Howell delivered two big baskets in the stretch while Macmac Cardona had a costly turnover in the
dying seconds as Talk N Text escaped with a 95-91 win over Air21 to grab the early solo lead in the PBA Commissioner's Cup Saturday at the Cuneta Astrodome.
The hard-working Howell was at the right place at the right time for the Tropang Texters, scoring a putback off Harvey Carey's missed undergoal stab, before adding another layup off Kelly Williams' feed to give the team a 93-89 lead with 22.3 seconds to go.
Air21 had a chance to close in, but Cardona couldn't handle Joseph Yeo's pass from the baseline, leading to a crucial turnover for the Express.
Jimmy Alapag and Ryan Reyes combined for two more free throws in the dying seconds to seal the deal for Talk 'N Text's second win in as many games this conference.
"It feels good to get the second win. It's very important to have a good start in the conference, because we look at this conference more as a sprint, so we really need to have a good start," said Talk 'N
Text coach Norman Black, who opened the import-spiced conference with an 85-72 win over defending champion Alaska.
Black commended Air21 for its strong fourth quarter comeback, mainly through the hustle plays of veteran Asi Taulava and Ivorian import Herve Lamizana.
The 41-year-old Taulava scored 12 of his team-high 23 points in the fourth period, mostly on inside baskets, while Lamizana added 18 markers, 15 boards, seven assists, and seven blocks in a strong defensive effort.
"Hats off to Air21. Their import is good. They gave us a very tough time, but I'm happy that our defense was able to hold up for us," added Black.
Howell followed up his 15-point, 30-rebound effort against the Aces by submitting 29 points and 12 rebounds despite being in foul trouble in the second half.
Jason Castro added 22, while Alapag added 14.
TALK N' TEXT (95) -- Howell 29, Castro 22, Alapag 14, De Ocampo 12, Carey 8, Williams 4, Reyes Ry. 3, Canaleta 2, Fonacier 1, Reyes Ro. 0, Aban 0, Baclao 0.
AIR21 (91) -- Taulava 23, Lamizana 18, Borboran 10, Atkins 10, Yeo 9, Villanueva 7, Cardona 6, Manuel 4, Matias 2, Camson 2, Poligrates 0, Burtscher 0, Sharma 0.
Quarterscores: 27-20; 43-38; 66-62; 95-91.