2013 PBA Commissioner’s Cup Roundup: March 13-15, 2013

Air21 continued to roll while Talk N Text and San Mig Coffee both got back on the winning track in the past two playdates of the 2013 PBA Commish Cup. All three teams, together with the Meralco Bolts, are locked right in the middle of the standings and are still in the thick of the fight for coveted quarterfinal spots.

In Wednesday’s first game the Bolts beat the Energy Cola, 112-104 as Eric Dawson's streak of double-doubles continued with his second 20-20 production. He could still improve his FG shooting (48%), and he could DEFINITELY improve his FT shooting (30%), but he has proven to be one of the most solid imports so far. Another that went really well for Meralco was the whuuuuuuuut?! play of Chris Ross. He put up 17 points, 11 assists, and 4 steals while shooting 63% from the 2-point area and committing just 1 turnover. Apparently, efficiency is now spelled R-O-S-S.

Barako actually played well in this game, but their defense had two main hiccups -- it allowed the Bolts to hit 44% of their threes, and it only forced SIX Meralco turnovers. Just not good enough.

In the second game, Talk N Text defeated Rain or Shine, 86-76, as two guys who have been struggling in the conference stepped up. Larry Fonacier and Donnel Harvey broke out in this game, combining for 40 points to lead the Texters to their second straight win and fourth overall. Norman Black’s trademark defense also stymied the Painters. TNT held ROS to a single field goal in the final 6 minutes. The Texters outscored the Painters, 14-6, in that stretch. Time to fear TNT again.

One bright spot for Rain or Shine was the tallest player in PBA history putting up 25 points. Alas, Bruno Sundov’s remarkable output was all in vain. Also, too bad coach Yeng Guiao wasn't around to fire his team up when they needed it the most.

In Fridays first encounter, San Mig Coffee triumphed over Meralco, 76-71. This time, Eric Dawson was pretty much outplayed by Denzel Bowles. Monster Bowles shot 50% from the field and 9-of-11 from the line to finish with 23 points on top of 16 rebounds. Dawson, meanwhile, shot just 33% from the floor and 44% from the stripe. One red flag for SMC, however, is the inefficiency of rookie Alex Mallari. Coach Tim Cone has a lot of faith in the kid, but is that faith misplaced? Mallari continues to eat up into the minutes of starter Mark Barroca, but his numbers aren't much better. Mallari missed all his attempts from three while turning the ball over thrice against only 2 assists.

Denzel Bowles outplayed Eric Dawson at
the Ynares Center in Antipolo City.

On the other end of the floor, Chris Ross continued to blossom in his new leadership role with the Bolts, recording a second straight triple-double. The Marshall University alum recorded a triple 10 -- points, rebounds, and assists -- but even those stats weren't enough to lift Meralco to a win.

In the Friday nightcap, Air21 won over pace-setting Alaska, 74-68. Michael Dunigan continued to sizzle, helping the Express win back-to-back for the first time this season. He shot 60% from the field and 13-of-15 from the line to go along with 14 rebounds and FIVE BLOCKS. Sure, he turned the ball over five times, but why be nit-picky, right? What’s exciting for coach Franz Pumaren is that it seems like his team has learned from its bitter crunch time collapses. Bitoy Omolon hit a big three with under 2 minutes to go to spark the decisive finishing kick that sent the Express to their third win in 8 games.

Meanwhile, coach Luigi Trillo will have to tweak his defense because it just wasn't up to snuff in this game, giving up THIRTY-TWO free throws to Air21. The Express made 6 more free throws than Alaska. And what was the point-differential in the final score? Yep. 6 points.

Game Recaps:
Wingmen Sunday Salvacion and Mac Cardona have had their moments playing hero for the Meralco Bolts in previous games.

On Wednesday night, it was the turn of another wingman, Ronjay Buenafe, to shine.

Buenafe unloaded all 19 of his points in the fourth period as the Bolts outlasted the Barako Bull Energy Colas, 112-104, in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup at the SMART-Araneta Coliseum.

Known as a defensive unit, the Bolts unveiled a different facet of their match against the Energy Colas, scoring 34 points in the fourth quarter.

Buenafe waxed hottest, going 3-of-4 form beyond the arc in the last 12 minutes of play.

“It’s great that offense has been added to our arsenal. We were preparing ourselves defensively,” said Meralco coach Ryan Gregorio. “It’s great to see players waking up after a long sleep and it’s good to see Ronjay heeding the call.”

With Buenafe catching fire, the Bolts picked up their third straight win and improved their win-loss record to 4-3.

A Buenafe three-pointer pushed the Bolts’ lead, 94-87, inside the five-minute mark.

Meralco’s win spoiled a big game from Barako Bull import Evan Brock, who had a PBA career-high 37 points. The Enegry Colas couldn’t get the usual explosive game from Josh Urbiztondo, who scored only four points on 2-for-10 shooting.

The Enegry Colas suffered their fourth straight loss and fell to seventh place in the standings with a 3-5 record.

“Today, we had a very good game plan, guarding their three-pointers. We didn’t allow Urbiztondo to take over the game and Brock got tired towards the end. It’s a great relief for us. We had our guns blazing in the fourth quarter,” added Gregorio, whose tallied its highest total of the tournament.

MER 112 – Dawson 27, Buenafe 19, Ross 17, Hugnatan 13, Cardona 12, Reyes 9, Salvacion 9, Hodge 4, Artadi 2, Manuel 0, Guevarra 0.
BAR 104 – Brock 37, Villanueva 16, Macapagal 16, Pennisi 14, Seigle 11, Urbiztondo 4, Maliksi 3, Anthony 3, Weinstein 0, Intal 0.
QS: 32-19, 48-51, 78-77, 112-104

Ronjay Buenafe dropped 19 big ones
on the Energy Cola.

Sean Anthony gets sandwiched by
Cliff Hodge and Reynel Hugnatan.

Eric Dawson was splendid against Barako Bull.

After losing back-to-back games, the Talk ‘N Text Tropang Texters have picked up two straight wins to reaffirm their title aspirations in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup.

Their big guns rediscovered their form on Wednesday night, surviving a Rain or Shine Elasto Painters squad in a defensive struggle on the way to winning, 86-76, at the SMART-Araneta Coliseum.

Larry Fonacier and Jayson Castro carried Talk ‘N Text in their team’s return bout against their finals nemesis last conference.

Fonacier had eight of his 17 points in the fourth quarter, while Castro added 11 points and five assists. The Best Player of the Philippine Cup came up with a dagger jumper at the 2:21 mark of the final quarter that gave the Tropang Texters an 83-73 lead.

Donnel Harvey’s three-pointer, which gave the Tropang Texters an 86-73 lead, proved to be the final blow, enough to snap the Elasto Painters’ five-game winning streak.

The Elasto Painters played minus coach Yeng Guiao, who was in the United States to attend to personal matters. The fiery coach will return Thursday and will be present in the team’s next game Saturday against Petron.

For Talk ‘N Text coach Norman Black, defense was instrumental in his team’s second straight win.

“We held their field goal percentage down and we played better defensively,” said Black, whose team forced the Elasto Painters to below 35 percent shooting from the field (29-of-83).

The Elasto Painters were led by Bruno Sundov’s 25 points and eight rebounds, but no other Rain or Shine player finished in double figures.

The Tropang Texters improved their win-loss record to 4-3. The Elasto Painters lost only for the second time in seven matches, and fell into a tie with the Petron Blaze Boosters for second to third places with identical 5-2 cards.

TNT 86 – Harvey 23, Fonacier 17, Castro 11, De Ocampo 11, Alapag 10, Williams 6, Al-Hussaini 3, Carey 3, Dillinger 2, Reyes 0, Aban 0.
ROS 76 – Sundov 25, Lee 8, Ibanes 8, Tang 7, Belga 7, Norwood 5, Arana 5, Quinahan 5, Rodriguez 4, Matias 2, Tiu 0, Cruz 0, Jaime 0.
QS: 22-17, 43-34, 60-56, 86-76

Bruno Sundov reaches way down to give pint-sized
Jimmy Alapag a hug.

Larry Fonacier waxed hot for TNT against ROS.

Donnel Harvey had a breakout game of
sorts versus the Painters.

Struggling offensively against one of the hottest teams in the PBA, the defending champion San Mig Coffee Mixers still found a way to win.

The Mixers held the Meralco Bolts to just 13 points in the fourth quarter en route to a come-from-behind 76-71 win Friday night at the Ynares Center in Antipolo City.

“Our team has been struggling offensively, but we found ways to win with our defense,” said San Mig Coffee coach Tim Cone.

Defensive demon Marc Pingris anchored the San Mig Coffee defense, grabbing 16 rebounds while taking his turn guarding Meralco’s best players — from center Eric Dawson to point guard Chris Ross.

The Mixers held the Bolts, who had won three straight games heading into the match, to just 5-of-22 shooting in the fourth quarter.

With their defense humming, the Mixers relied on Denzel Bowles on the offensive side late in the game. The reigning Best Import of the Commissioner’s Cup scored 10 of his 23 points in the fourth period, including a clutch jumper that pushed the Mixers’ lead to 75-71 with 2:51 left.

“He played big in the fourth. Denzel always comes up at big times. Whenever we need a bucket, we need a rebound, Denzel is always there to provide them,” said Cone.

That was enough for San Mig Coffee, which prevented the Bolts from scoring the rest of the way.

James Yap also provided additional firepower for San Mig Coffee, scoring 19 points.

San Mig Coffee improved its win-loss record to 4-4 while snapping the Bolts’ three-game winning streak.

The Mixers also spoiled a big game from Chris Ross, who had a triple-double with 10 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists.

Meralco missed the contributions of Mac Cardona, who finished scoreless after missing all eight of his attempts and struggling with four turnovers. Another top gun, Ronjay Buenafe, was held to just two points.

SMC 76 – Bowles 23, Yap 19, Simon 9, Pingris 7, Mallari 6, Devance 6, Barroca 2, Najorda 2, Reavis 2, De Ocampo 0.
MER 71 – Dawson 20, Hodge 14, Ross 10, Hugnatan 8, Artadi 6, Salvacion 6, Reyes 5, Buenafe 2, Manuel 0, Guevarra 0, Cardona 0, Sharma 0.
QS: 15-25; 34-38; 56-58; 76-71

The beautiful Jessica Mendoza interviews some fans.

Chris Ross punches through the D of Mark Barroca.


The Air 21 Express have registered their first pair of back-to-back victories in the Commissioner’s Cup.

And it came at the expense of the No. 1 team in the league, the Alaska Aces.

The Express squandered a 13-point third quarter lead but held on to win, 74-68, over the Aces on Friday night at the Ynares Center in Antipolo City.

Michael Dunigan played solid on both ends of the court, finishing with 25 points, 14 rebounds and five blocks and practically outplayed his counterpart, Robert Dozier in helping the Express secure their third win in eight matches.

“First back-to-back wins for us,” said Air21 coach Franz Pumaren. “It’s good to play here in Ynares, last time we came here, we won as well. I hope we play more games here.”

Unlike in their previous games where they collapsed in the endgame, the Express were able to maintain their composure despite losing a big lead.

The Aces were still in striking distance, 68-66, after RJ Jazul came through with a big three-pointer off a broken play with still 2:02 left in the match.

But Bitoy Omolon answered back with his own three-pointer to beat the 24-second shot clock in the ensuing play , triggering a short but telling 6-2 exchange enough to give the Express the finishing kick they needed.

“We learned from our four heartbreaking losses,” said Pumaren. “I’d like to give credit to my coaching staff for preparing the team well.”

The Aces missed the services of JVee Casio, who was sidelined due to a knee injury and the team had to make do with their remaining guards on the squad – Jazul and Raphy Reyes.

AIR 74 – Dunigan 25, Wilson 9, Canaleta 8, Cortez 8, Omolon 6, Menor 4, Custodio 4, Isip 4, Ritualo 3, Arboleda 3, Baclao 0.
ALA 68 – Dozier 17, Abueva 9, Espinas 9, Hontiveros 9, Reyes 6, Jazul 6, Baguio 5, Thoss 4, Dela Cruz 3, Ramos 0, Eman 0.
QS: 14-15; 40-32; 54-51; 74-68.

Cyrus Baguio and RJ Jazul look up as the Aces
drop only their second game of the conference.
Mike Dunigan (L) has some words to spare for
Alaska's Rob Dozier (R).

Old collegiate rivals Ogie Menor (L) and Calvin Abueva (R)
meet head-on in last night's encounter.

Source: Unless otherwise specified, game recaps were compressed and compiled from InterAKTV. (Writing credit to Rey Joble)

Images: Images are from InterAKTV and the PBA. (Photo credit to Paolo Papa and Paul Ryan Tan) 
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