2014 PBA Commissioner’s Cup: Air 21 and Talk N Text win on opening night!

The Air 21 Express and Talk N Text Tropang Texters opened the 2014 PBA Commish Cup with contrasting victories last night at the Mall of Asia Arena. Air 21 leaned on a strong second half by import Herve Lamizana to beat the GlobalPort Batang Pier before Talk N Text dominated the defending champion Alaska Aces.

In the first game, Air 21 survived GlobalPort, 83-78. With a healthy Simon Atkins and Jonas Villanueva manning the PG spot for the Air 21 Express, Joseph Yeo slid back to shooting guard, his natural position. It paid dividends, of course, as the shifty former Green Archer shot 9/17 from the field on his way to 21 points, 6 rebounds, 1 steal, and 1 block. The man nicknamed "The Ninja" is clearly more comfortable on the wings, but he still found time to dish out 5 assists to his teammates. He's an unheralded two-guard in a league dominated by the household names likes of James Yap and Mark Caguioa, but if he keeps consistent with this kind of production, then he might be mentioned among the top-tier guys pretty soon, too.

It was a baptism of fire for neophyte PBA head coach Pido Jarencio, whose team led at the half before the Express woke up in the third quarter and held strong late in the payoff period. Jarencio enjoyed a great 28-26 night from import Evan Brock, who played for Barako Bull last year, but he got little else from the local cast. With Justin Chua the only other guy to score in double-figures (10 points on 4/6 FG shooting), Jarencio has his work cut out for him in terms of finding other reliable sources of offense. New guys Alex Cabagnot and Bonbon Custodio combined for just 12 points, while rookie sensation Terrence Romeo fired blanks and finished with a paltry 3 markers. 

Ivory in the rough: Cote D' Ivoire national team mainstay Herve Lamizana had a rough start in his PBA debut, scoring just 2 points in the first half, which promptly elicited a tongue-lashing from coach Franz Pumaren, but he made up for it by scoring 16 in the third quarter alone to pull his team up and negate a 5-point halftime deficit. Lamizana would go on to finish with 22 points and 10 rebounds, but he'll have to be more offensively potent in Air 21's next few games if he wants to stay put as a PBA reinforcement. His 5 blocks, however, were very impressive. 

Herve Lamizana pivots against GlobalPort's Jay Washington.

In the main game, Talk N Text overcame Alaska, 85-72, as young import Richard Howell made quite the impression, grabbing THIRTY rebounds as the Tropang Texters dominated a listless Alaska quintet. The North Carolina State alum didn't show a lot of polish on the offensive end, shooting just 7/22 fro the floor, but he more than made up for it by dominating the battle of the boards. On a team loaded with so much firepower from the local crew, a workhorse like Howell might just be the perfect fit for coach Norman Black.

If Alaska fans were hoping to see a fresh Rob Dozier in form for the Aces, well, suffice to say they were quite disappointed. Dozier hasn't played a lick of pro ball anywhere since Alaska won the Commish Cup in 2013, which probably played a factor as to why he wasn't exactly a dominant force in this match. The former Memphis Tiger shot just 5/11 from the field and 5/9 from the line to finish with 16 points. Now, though he did grab 10 rebounds and block 4 shots, this is still not the same Rob Dozier who won Best Import in 2013. The fault is not all his, however, as fellow starters Sonny Thoss, JV Casio, and Dondon Hontiveros struggled mightily as well. Those three combined for just 15 points in 95 total minutes.

RaniDirk: Ranide De Ocampo was just unstoppable in this one. The Gilas Pilipinas PF showcased his fine shooting touch, nailing 2 triples and 7/8 of his free throws on his way to a game-high 21 points. He also added 10 boards and 2 steals in a really impressive showing for the Texters, who are looking to have a strong conference after failing to defend the Philippine Cup. RDO also got a lot of help from fellow Gilas stalwarts Jayson Castro and Jimmy Alapag, who paired up for 23 points, 8 assists, and 4 treys.

Game Recaps:

AIR 21 over GLOBALPORT, 83-78

The Air 21 Express rode a strong second half performance from import Herve Lamizana to fashion out a tight 83-78 victory over the GlobalPort Batang Pier to open the PLDT Home TVolution Commissioner’s Cup on Wednesday at Mall of Asia Arena.

The loss spoiled the PBA coaching debut of Pido Jarencio, who took over the reins for the Batang Pier after spending eight seasons calling the shots for University of Santo Tomas.

After a lackluster performance in the first half that saw him score just two point, Express import Herve Lamizana broke loose in the third period, when he scored 16 of his 22 points. That allowed Air 21 to turn a five-point halftime deficit into a 66-56 advantage heading into the final quarter.

“The first half just flustered me a little bit,” admitted Lamizana after the game. “It was just a bad performance in the first half. I just had to pick it up in the second half to share the guys what I could do.”

GlobalPort import Evan Brock, who finished with 28 points and 26 rebounds, led a Batang Pier comeback in the fourth period. His dunk with 2:45 left tied the game at 77-all.

Brock drew a foul from Mike Burtscher with 1:32 left, and the comebacking import split his free throws to give GlobalPort a slim edge, 78-77.

Lamizana answered right back with a nifty reverse undergoal layup to give Air 21 back the lead, 79-78, with 1:22 left.

Alex Cabagnot, also making his GlobalPort debut, missed on a drive to the basket in the ensuing possession.

Mark Borboran nailed one of two free throws on the other end to give the Express more breathing room, 80-78.

The Batang Pier still had possession with 30.2 seconds remaining. Lamizana came up with big block on Brock, before Borboran forced a turnover on Mark Macapagal with 18.2 seconds remaining.

Borboran hit two free throws to make it a two-possession game, 82-78. After another fruitless GlobalPort possession, Simon Atkins hit a split from the charity stripe to ice the game for the Express.

“Good thing our import picked up his game in the second half,” said Air 21 coach Franz Pumaren, who gave Lamizana a scolding at halftime.

“I told him an import is supposed to be dominating.”

Lamizana finished with 22 points, 10 rebounds, and five blocks. He had plenty of help from Air 21′s stars, with Joseph Yeo finishing with 21 points, Asi Taulava chipping in 14, and Mac Cardona adding 11.

Justin Chua was the only other player in double-figures for GlobalPort.

A21 83 — Lamizana 22, Yeo 21, Taulava 14, Cardona 11, Borboran 6, Villanueva 4, Burtscher 2, Sharma 2, Jaime 0, Poligrates 0, Matias 0, Camson 0, Manuel 0.
GLO 78 — Brock 28, Chua 10, Washington 9, Macapagal 8, Custodio 8, Cabagnot 4, Garcia 4, Romeo 3, Yee 2, Salva 2, Nabong 0, Ponferada 0, Salvador 0.
QS: 22-14; 40-45; 66-56; 83-78.

Joseph Yeo pulls up over Mark Yee.

Pido Jarencio got his first taste of PBA action as a head coach last night.

TALK N TEXT over ALASKA, 85-72

The Talk ‘N Text Tropang Texters took advantage of a lackluster effort from defending champion Alaska for an impressive 85-72 win in the PLDT Home TVolution Commissioner’s Cup on Wednesday at Mall of Asia Arena.

“It’s a great start for us,” said Talk ‘N Text coach Norman Black.

The Tropang Texters made their move in the second quarter, opening up a 45-35 bubble at halftime.

The Aces tried to threaten early in the third quarter, cutting the deficit to just six points. But Alaska, the tournament’s defending champion, couldn’t string together enough points to overtake Talk ‘N Text.

Instead, Tropang Texters surged ahead by 20 points, 73-53, to end the third quarter, a lead they nursed throughout the final period to come away with the victory.

Richard Howell was an immovable presence on the low block, grabbing 30 rebounds to go along with 15 points. Ranidel De Ocampo provided the firepower for the Tropang Texters, leading the squad with 21 points.

With Howell leading the way, Talk ‘N Text dominated the boards, 64-47. The Tropang Texters also held the Aces to miserable 32.9 percent shooting from the field.

“Our defense is much better today,” said Black. “We played good defense the entire game.”

It was a disappointing start for Alaska, who won last year’s title behind returning import Robert Dozier in a 3-0 sweep of Barangay Ginebra San Miguel in the finals.

Dozier, the tournament’s reigning Best Import, finished with 16 points, 10 rebounds, and four blocks in 47 minutes of play. Calvin Abueva added 16 points and 14 rebounds for the Aces.

TNT 85 – De Ocampo 21, Howell 15, Castro 12, Alapag 11, Canaleta 9, Reyes Ry. 8, Fonacier 5, Reyes Ro. 2, Carey 2, Baclao 0.
ALA 72 – Dozier 16, Abueva 16, Baguio 13, Thoss 8, Jazul 7, Casio 5, Espinas 3, Dela Cruz 2, Hontiveros 2.
QS: 22-22, 45-35, 73-53, 85-72

Rob Dozier struggled in his first game back since winning the 2013 Commish Cup
with the Alaska Aces.

Recaps by Rey Joble/InterAKTV.

Images by Nuki Sabio/PBA.

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