|Talk 'N Text point guard Jimmy Alapag attacks the Air21 defense in their PBA Philippine Cup game Sunday at the Araneta Coliseum. The Texters won, 100-94. Photo by Mark Cristino for ABS-CBNnews.com
MANILA, Philippines - (UPDATE) Jimmy Alapag, for the second straight game, brought in much energy and intensity coming off the bench and Talk n Text warded off a fierce-fighting Air21 side, 100-94, to assure itself of a playoff for a Top Two seeding in the PBA Philippine Cup post-elims play at the Smart Araneta Coliseum last night.
Alapag stepped up in the fourth quarter, enabling the Tropang Texters to cut loose from a tight battle and firm up their hold of league leadership at 10-2.
Now assured of a tie for second place at the close of the elims, the Texters need to win just once in their last two games to clinch a twice-to-beat incentive in the quarterfinal round.
The Express stayed at eighth place with an eighth loss in 12 games.
"Pretty tough game for us. Actually, in the first round, Air21 also played tough and made it difficult for us. It was a letdown for us after the San Mig Coffee game. But at this point in the season, what’s important is to win and gain Top Two slot," said Talk n Text coach Norman Black.
"The tough road begins for us as we play Petron then Ginebra next. We win one of those games and we got twice-to-beat. That's our goal," Black added.
Dragged to a fierce showdown by the Express, Black and his troops got a big relief as Alapag rose to the occasion in the final quarter, delivering eight points and two assists.
The 2010 MVP awardee banged away two treys and set up Kelly Williams for a triple of his own in a key tear giving Talk n Text a 93-85 lead entering the last two minutes.
"I was kind of picking my spots and luckily I got it in the fourth," said Alapag, finishing with 18 points, six assists and two rebounds in 28 minutes of action.
"Jimmy's basically just himself. He's been doing that for years," said Black of their prized guard.
Jayson Castro and Ranidel de Ocampo added 16 points each while Larry Fonacier chipped in 11 for the Texters while Mike Cortez topscored for the Express with 23 points also on an off-the-bench game.
Air21 fought Talk n Text through seven deadlocks and seven lead changes in the first three quarters with the Express’ reserves outscoring their TnT counterparts, 40-27.
Cortez and James Sena combined for 28 points in the first 36 minutes of play.
Simon Atkins, Rob Reyes, Nelbert Omolon and Renren Ritualo had their contributions off the bench as the Express trailed by only one, 69-70, after the third canto.
They kept the game close through the next seven minutes before Alapag stepped up and came through with clutch plays, holding off Air21 in the end.
LA Tenorio and Chris Ellis combined for 29 of their 35 points in the second half as Barangay Ginebra fought back from an 18-point deficit, stretching its streak to four games with a 97-90 win over Rain or Shine in the nightcap.
Already out of contention for the Top Two and now chasing a spot in the Top Six, Petron boosted its chances Saturday night, rolling past Barako Bull, 93-83, in their road game in Lucena City to move up to fifth place with a 6-6 win-loss slate.