MANILA, Philippines – Air21 avenged an earlier defeat to Alaska by hacking out a 104-103 win in their PBA Philippine Cup encounter at the Smart Araneta Coliseum on Wednesday.
After squandering an 82-64 lead, the Express fought back to a thrilling finish courtesy of Mark Isip’s jumper in the final quarter.
According to PBA.ph, the Aces got a 103-102 breather through Cyrus Baguio's charity split with still 23.2 seconds left.
The ensuing play saw Mike Cortez pass an assist to Isip, who fired the winning shot with 6.1 seconds remaining.
Javyee Casio had a chance to turn Alaska’s fortunes around, but his attempt beyond the arc missed its mark.
Air21 coach Franz Pumaren said their near-collapse showed that they still have to improve their on-court chemistry.
"It's a classic example of our team still working on chemistry, lacking in experience," said Pumaren. "It's a good thing we were able to regroup, kept our poise and stopped the shot [in the end]."
The Express’ win was its third straight since recovering from a 92-81 defeat to the Aces last month.
Air21 is now tied with Barangay Ginebra at 6th with a 4-5 win-loss card.
Alaska, meanwhile, fell to 5-5 after their 3rd straight loss.
Nino Canaleta led the Express with 21 points. John Wilson added 13 points, while Isip and Cortez chipped in 12 each.
Top scoring for Alaska was Mark Baracael who had a career-high 24 points. Calvin Abueva tallied 17 points to go with his 10 rebounds.
But the Aces’ usual scorers had anemic outputs.
Cyrus Baguio only had 5 points, while Casio was held to 8. Sonny Thoss settled for 7 points.
Despite the defeat, Alaska coach Luigi Trillo said his boys did their best.
"They brought it in the second half, but they were really tired," he said. "We even had a chance to win it at sino mag-aakala noon after that first half?"
From a 64-82 deficit, Alaska’s bench came off with a 12-2 rally to trim the gap to just 76-84 going to the final period.
Abueva and Baracael help tie the count to 100-all before Baguio gave the Aces a slim 103-102 lead over 23 seconds to go.
Alaska, however, failed to foresee Cortez’s assist to Isip who connected a floater that won the game for Air21.
Air21 104 - Canaleta 21, Wilson 13, Isip 12, Cortez 12, Sena 11, Custodio 11, Omolon 9, Baclao 7, Reyes 6, Arboleda 2, Atkins 0.
Alaska 103 - Baracael 24, Abueva 17, Espinas 16, Reys 8, Casio 8, Jazul 7, Thoss 7, Hontiveros 6, Baguio 5, Eman 3, Laure 2, Dela Cruz 0.
Quarterscores: 34-20, 61-48, 84-76, 104-103.