SLR 97, Air21 88

On: 08 December 2008

PBA's 34th Season

Air21 is back in the Magic Five and determined to stay there till the end of the double-round elims.

"Our target is to make the top five, nothing less. We don't want No. 6 because it's just like No. 9," said coach Bo Perasol after his Express made it two in a row over the Sta. Lucia Realtors Sunday to move back in the upper half of the chart nearing the closing stage of the KFC PBA Philippine Cup elimination phase.

Air21 made key runs in the final half and repeated over Sta. Lucia, 97-88, to gain solo fifth place with an 8-7 win-loss record behind Alaska Milk (10-4), San Miguel Beer (9-6), Rain or Shine (9-6) and Talk n Text (8-6).

The Realtors suffered a second straight defeat and slid to joint seventh with the Purefoods Tender Juicy Giants at 7-8.

"Our motivation really was making the Magic Five. This is not a game na okay lang matalo at bawi na lang next time. We knew the result of this game would have a great impact in our bid," said Perasol.

"We're back in the top half of the standings. Our goal now is to stay there up to the finish to avoid the wildcard round. We know how tough to go through that phase," Perasol added.

Ranidel del Ocampo came through with 23 points, nine rebounds and seven assists in a solid all-round game leading the Express to a repeat win over the Realtors whom they handed a 107-83 beating in their previous tiff.

Nino Canaleta churned out a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds with Gary David, Arwind Santos and Homer Se contributing at least 14 points each.

Kelly Williams had a game-high 27 points while Dennis Espino had a near triple-double with 13 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists that all went down the drain.

But it was far from an easy win for Air21.

The Express had to go through 11 deadlocks and 11 lead changes before finally disposing of the Realtors.

Santos tossed in nine straight points pushing the Express ahead to stay at 82-76.

Sta. Lucia threatened for the last time at 86-89 before De Ocampo and David knocked in back-to-back baskets to eventually win the game for Air21 at 93-86 with a minute left to play.

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