2014 PBA Commissioner’s Cup Quarterfinals: Air 21 gets an upset win even as TNT blows out Ginebra!

In great QFs action last night, the Air 21 Express dominated the San Miguel Beermen, while the Gin Kings got the boot from the Tropang Texters.

Sean Anthony led Air 21's upset of SMB, while Richard Howell was
superb in TNT's rout of Ginebra.

In the first game, Air 21 throttled San Miguel Beer, 92-79. It’s not too far-fetched to think that the Air 21 Express have the Beermen’s number. In their only elimination round match this conference, the Beermen had to rally from an 18-point second half deficit to slip past the Express, 93-85. In this one, Air 21 had a fast start again, and they played keep-away for the remainder of the game. The Express shot better from the field, had more rebounds, and forced 8 more SMB turnovers in this game. Should we be surprised if coach Franz Pumaren’s boys actually finish off the Beermen in Game 2? Hell no.

Marcio Lassiter was a spark in SMB’s previous game against Air 21, and he has been the best SG so far this conference, but in this match he was pretty much a negative for the Beermen. The former Gilas two-guard shot 1/9 from the floor, including 0/3 form beyond the arc, on his way to a conference-low 2 points in 38 minutes. Chris Lutz kinda made up for it by scoring 11 markers in 16 minutes, but no way SMB will be able to fight for the title with Lassiter in a slump.

Super Mode: Sean Anthony was at his best here. The former Gilas candidate (waaay back in 2009) played in just his fourth game for Air 21, but he impressed, scoring a team-high and season-high 25 points on 8/12 FG shooting, including hitting both of his three-point attempts. This was on top of 7 rebounds and 2 steals, too. And to think he didn’t even start! It shouldn’t really be that shocking, however, since he also played well against SMB the last time, scoring 14 points and grabbing 8 boards.

In the main match, Talk N Text blasted Ginebra, 97-84. 10-0. The TNT Tropang Texters are still red-hot and dead serious, mercilessly blowing the Gin Kings out of the water in this quarterfinal encounter. Despite conceding the battle of the boards, 48-61, coach Norman Black’s wards still won very convincingly mainly because they forced 19 Ginebra turnovers, including 5 from Gabe Freeman and 3 from Japeth Aguilar, and they shot much better from the field — 44% to 36%. Ranidel De Ocampo and Larry Fonacier both waxed hot from long range, too, combining for 5 treys. RDO and Larry Legend finished with 15 and 12 points respectively.

The highly-touted starting frontline of Greg Slaughter and Japeth Aguilar was not effective here. They combined to shoot 6/14 from the field, scoring just a total of 14 markers. In contrast, their TNT counterparts — Richard Howell and RDO — paired up for 56. It was just too imbalanced. Both these guys need to really be more consistent if Ginebra hopes to do much better in the Governors’ Cup. Oh, and did I mention that the Kings have to rediscover their identity and FINALLY choose JUST ONE head coach?

Whattacomeback: Import Richard Howell missed TNT’s last game due to a shoulder injury, but he hardly showed any signs of slowing down here. The NC State alum recorded 41 points and 22 rebounds in what might just be his best game of the conference yet. That’s saying a lot, too, since he is one of the leading contenders of the Best Import plum. He shot 18/27 from the field and added 2 steals in an ultra-efficient performance. Whoever faces TNT in the next round (either Meralco or Rain or Shine) will have its hands full with Howell.

Game recaps by Rey Joble/InterAKTV:

AIR 21 over SAN MIGUEL BEER, 92-79

Air 21 forward Sean Anthony found his touch in the second half and import Wesley Witherspoon put the finishing touches down the stretch as the Express defeated the second-seeded San Miguel Beermen, 92-79, to force a do-or-die game in their PLDT Home TVolution Commissioner’s Cup quarterfinals series on Tuesday at the SMART-Araneta Coliseum.

Anthony scored 21 of his team-high 25 points over the last two periods while Witherspoon scored 11 of Air 21’s last 15 points as they held off the Beermen and kept their semifinal hopes alive.

Witherspoon finished with 18 points and 11 rebounds and center Asi Taulava contributed with 17 points and eight rebounds for the Express.

Air 21, behind the energy of Eloy Poligrates, started the game firing on all cylinders, outscoring San Miguel, 12-2, to open the game. They led by as many as 17 points in the first half before settling for a 45-34 lead at the half.

In the third, the Beermen got to as close as six points, 52-46, before Anthony caught fire, scoring nine of the the Express’ next 11 points as they closed the third period with a 63-54 advantage.

Mark Borboran opened the fourth with a basket for Air 21 but Kevin Jones cut the deficit down to eight, 65-57, with a three-pointer.

Anthony, though, put his team on his back once more, scoring all of his team’s points in a 12-4 run that put their lead back up to 16, 77-61, midway through the fourth.

San Miguel had one last rally, though, with June Mar Fajardo, Jones, and Arwind Santos combining to score six straight points for the Beermen, who cut their deficit down to 10, 77-67.

But Witherspoon hit a trey and Asi Taulava hit two midrange jumpers to counter some three-pointers from Santos and the import would later score all of Air 21’s points in an 8-2 run that would give them a 92-77 lead in the final minutes.

Poligrates and Joseph Yeo also finished with double figures for Air 21, with 11 and 10 points, respectively.

Jones led San Miguel with 34 points and 15 rebounds but it wasn’t enough to carry his team to a victory in this one.

The Beermen will have one more chance to advance to the semis, though, as they entered the series with a twice-to-beat advantage.

The two teams are coming off an elimination round encounter last Wednesday, which saw the Beermen rally from an 18-point deficit to win and secure the second seed.

AIR 92 – Anthony 25, Witherspoon 18, Taulava 17, Poligrates 11, Yeo 10, Ramos 5, Borboran 2, Villanueva 2, Cardona 2, Burtscher 0, Camson 0.
SMB 79 – Jones 34, Lutz 11, Santos 10, Ross 9, Fajardo 5, Mercado 5, Maierhofer 2, Lassiter 2, Hubalde 1, Duncil 0, Tubid 0, Kramer 0.
QS: 29-20, 45-34, 63-54, 92-79.

Kevin Jones was productive, but even his performance wasn't enough
to tow the Beermen past the Express.

Sean Anthony saved his best for this huge game against SMB.

Wesley Witherspoon sizes up the D of Kevin Jones.


The Talk ‘N Text Tropang Texters kept their unbeaten run in the PLDT Home TVolution Commissioner’s Cup going after defeating Barangay Ginebra San Miguel, 97-84, to advance into the semifinal round on Tuesday at the SMART-Araneta Coliseum.

Import Richard Howell, who missed the team’s final elimination game, returned from a shoulder injury to post a dominant 41-point, 22-rebound performance and help the Tropang Texters clinch their quarterfinal series against the Gin Kings in just one game.

Ranidel De Ocampo scored 15 points while Jayson Castro had 13 and Larry Fonacier added 12 as Talk ‘N Text, which swept the elimination round with a perfect 9-0 record, extended their winning streak to 10 games.

Howell set the tone for the Tropang Texters early, scoring 15 points in the opening period and helping his team to a 42-34 lead at the halftime break.

He outscored his Ginebra counterpart, Gabe Freeman, 23-9, over the first two periods.

Talk ‘N Text then blew the game wide open in the third period, which they dominated, 37-19.

Howell opened the period with back-to-back baskets to spark an 8-0 run that pushed the difference to 16 points, 50-34.

The Tropang Texters kept the pressure on, with Jayson Castro and KG Canaleta capping the period with a three-pointer each that made it a 26-point advantage, 79-53, entering the fourth period.

They pushed the lead to as high as 29 points, 86-57, after a Ranidel De Ocampo trey early in the fourth before Ginebra unleashed one final run.

Dylan Ababou starred as the Gin Kings fired off 12 unanswered points to come to as close as 17, 86-69.

But Jimmy Alapag found Castro for a layup in transition and De Ocampo hit another three to push the lead back up to 22. Freeman scored four straight points for Ginebra, but Alapag got into the paint for two points then got another assist, this time to Howell, to give Talk ‘N Text a 95-73 lead with a little over three minutes remaining.

Mark Caguioa led Ginebra with 19 points while Freeman finished with 15. LA Tenorio was the only other Gin King in double figures with 12.

Talk ‘N Text, which held a twice-to-beat advantage in the quarters, advanced to the next round, where it will await the winner of the Meralco-Rain or Shine series. The Bolts won the first meeting, 94-91.

TNT 97 – Howell 41, De Ocampo 15, Castro 13, Fonacier 12, Alapag 5, Williams 4, Carey 4, Canaleta 3, Salamat 0, Seigle 0, Aban 0, Reyes Jai 0, Reyes Ryan 0, Baclao 0.
GIN 84 – Caguioa 19, Freeman 15, Tenorio 12, Urbiztondo 9, Ababou 7, Aguilar 7, Slaughter 6, Baracael 4, Helterbrand 2, Mamaril 2, Reyes 1, Ellis 0.
QS: 27-21, 42-34, 79-53, 97-84.

Jayson Castro tries to drive pas Gilas teammate LA Tenorio.

Mark Caguioa led the Gin Kings with 19 points, but this turned out
to be their last game of the conference.

Richard Howell puts the move on Ginebra center Greg Slaughter.

Images by Paolo Papa/Sports 5.

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