Using a different starting unit, the Express grounded the Boosters for a surprisingly easy 97-76 triumph on Friday night at the SMART-Araneta Coliseum.
“It’s one of those games where certain teams will have this kind of game, but it’s a long season,” said Air 21 coach Franz Pumaren.
“Still, I have to give credit to my players as we were able to defend well against Petron.”
Air 21 had only won one game coming into the match against the powerhouse Petron squad, which was on a two-game winning streak.
But the Express kept the Boosters at bay from start to finish, neutralizing Petron’s running game which was on display in its previous outing against the GlobalPort Batang Pier last Friday.
“I was watching Petron and I found out they’re good whenever they have the ball and they would continue pushing. But we paid extra attention on their running game, which they used against GlobalPort.”
Mark Isip, playing the starting power forward role for the Express, finished with 22 points and seven rebounds while Rob Reyes, playing for the first time against the team that traded him in the offseason, came off the bench to score 17 points and grab six rebounds in what was easily his finest game of the season.
“We’ve finally found the right starting unit. Our coaching staff made very good preparation and scouted Petron pretty well. We were able to maximize some mismatches. We’re also a different Air 21 today, playing more aggressive and outworking our opponents. We had an advantage as we had five days off,” said Pumaren.
The Express were able to post leads of 25 points in the fourth quarter, as Petron simply had no answer against the energized Air 21 side.
The Boosters were led by Arwind Santos’ 15 points and 14 rebounds, but the team shot only 34.2% from the field (26-of-76), and were beaten by the Express on second chance points, 15 to six.
AIR 21 97 – Isip 22, Reyes 17, Custodio 12, Canaleta 12, Omolon 11, Baclao 9, Wilson 5, Taha 4, Arboleda 3, Ritualo 2, Atkins 0.
PETRON 76 – Santos 15, Lutz 13, Cabagnot 11, Washington 9, Mallari 6, Yeo 6, Lassiter 5, Lanete 4, Pena 4, Miranda 3, Sison 0, Duncil 0.
Quarters: 34-23, 48-42, 79-58, 97-76