Air 21's Asi Taulava goes to the basket against San Mig Coffee's James Mays. Photo by Mark Cristino for ABS-CBNnews.com
MANILA, Philippines – Despite San Mig Coffee’s credentials and experience, Air21 coach Franz Pumaren said they are determined to make franchise history by reaching the finals of the PBA Commissioner’s Cup.
“We’re up against a seasoned team with all those championships. I’m up against a brilliant coach with a record number of crowns. But we’ll be there. We’ll try to outwork and outhustle them,” Pumaren said in the PBA website after forcing the Mixers to a do-or-die Game 5 in their semifinal duel.
The Express started their fairy-tale run by slaying the fancied San Miguel Beermen in the quarterfinals to book a semis date with the Mixers.
Pumaren said they will again rely on their tried and tested formula to make it to the finals -- a feat Air21 has yet to achieve since joining the league in 2011 as the Shopinas.com Clickers.
San Mig Coffee was leading the series 2-1 when Air21 managed to gut out a 94-91 win in Game 4 last Monday. This leveled the faceoff, 2-all, to set a winner-take-all Game 5.
“We just got back to the old system we’re doing. We did a certain approach that we’re supposed to do, something that vanished in the last two games,” said Pumaren.
Wesley Witherspoon led the Express’ scoring barrage with 32 points on eight triples. The locals responded, too, by setting a franchise-record and conference-high 15 three-pointers.
“I was kind of hard on him (Witherspoon) in practice and he accepted the challenge. He responded by showing a great character,” Pumaren also said.
Pumaren added that they went on soul-searching before Game Four and this paid dividends in their offense.
“I told the players let’s enjoy the game, let’s spread the floor and if we’re open don’t hesitate to take the shot, not like in the last game when we’re open and we’re hesitating,” he said.
Game 5 is set to take place at the Araneta Coliseum on Wednesday starting 8 p.m.