SLR 83, Air21 107

On: 27 October 2008

PBA's 34th Season

Air21 pounced on a listless Sta. Lucia squad, relying on a strong start to stun the defending champions 107-83 and register its first back-to-back wins in the KFC PBA Philippine Cup at the Ynares Center here Friday night.

The Express, who are coming off a runner-up finish behind Barangay Ginebra in the 2008 Fiesta Conference last August, settled the outcome of the game right in the first quarter to notch its second straight win after starting the conference with a 0-3 slate.

Air21 head coach Bo Perasol said he simply made his players aware of the fact that if the playoffs were to start now, they would be playing in the wildcard, something which they want to avoid.

“We only have a modest goal which is to reach the quarterfinals outright. We realistically don’t think we can make it to the semifinals outright. So we felt we had to work right now – this early – rather than wait for the eliminations to reach its homestretch and us needing to win this or that,” Perasol explained. “We have to start winning games right now and not when the playoffs are near.”

A rare triple by Homer Se ignited a 15-2 run by the Express in the last five minutes of the first period that gave Air21 a commanding 22-11 advantage after the first 12 minutes of play.

The Realtors, who saw their three-game win streak come to a halt and dropped their record to 3-2, put up a mild rally at the start of the second period, coming up with an 8-0 run behind reigning league MVP Kelly Williams to come to within 19-22 but Ranidel de Ocampo and Gary David picked up from where Se left in the first period, conspiring in a 15-1 run to post their biggest lead in the first half of 37-20.

With all 12 players fielded by Perasol breaking into the scoring column, Air21 went on to lead by as much as 28 points in the third quarter and by as much as 29 in the fourth.

Santos led Air21 with his 21 points built around a 4-for-8 shooting from beyond the three-point line. Last season’s Defensive Player of the Year added nine rebounds, three steals, one assist and one shotblock even as three others scored in double figures for the Express led by the 20 of Gary David.

Sta. Lucia, which was led by the 24 points of Williams, suffered its worst loss since a 113-86 rout at the hands of Barangay Ginebra last July 18 in last season’s Fiesta eliminations.

The Realtors, who were outscored in each of the four quarters, shot a low 34.6% from the field, including a dismal 22.2% (4-for-18) in the first period which they were never able to recover from.

Air21, which had a 59-43 edge in rebounding, also got plenty of mileage from the rest of its players especially after the ejection of JC Intal in the second period after a flagrant foul-penalty two on a dangerous trip on a jump-shooting Ryan Reyes.

It was sweet revenge of sorts for Air21 which lost its two games to Sta. Lucia in the eliminations of last season’s Philippine Cup by an average margin of 26.0 points, inclusive of the worst defeat in Express franchise history, 115-80 on Nov. 7, 2007.

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