Cardona's endgame heroics propel Air21 past Alaska
MANILA, Philippines – The Air21 Express continue to prove that they are no longer whipping boys of the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA).
Mark Cardona delivered the finishing kick the Express needed in the final two minutes of the contest as he led his team to a 3-1 slate, disposing of the Alaska Aces, 91-88, in the 2014 PLDT Home Telpad PBA Governors' Cup on Friday, May 30 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Cardona scored all of his 14 points in the second half, including 9 in the payoff period, and the game-changing 5 points within the final two minutes of the contest.
“Macmac really stepped up," remarked Air21 head coach Franz Pumaren. "He made some ridiculous shots, big shots that gave us a cushion.”
Not only was Cardona the man for Pumaren in getting those clutch points, but he was also the man that made everything else possible for Air21 towards the end.
After drilling the go-ahead three-pointer, 87-86, with 1:23 on the clock, Cardona took advantage of an empty Alaska possession and drove to the hoop and trickled in his 14th point, giving Air21 an 89-86 cushion.
He then secured the crucial rebound after Alaska import Henry Walker (13 points, 12 rebounds) and JVee Casio (18 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists) couldn't get their triple attempts to fall.
Later on, Cardona dished the assist to Aldrech Ramos with 13.4 seconds remaining, which resulted in a baseline jumper that put the Express ahead by 5, 91-86.
A Sonny Thoss (6 points) putback on the other end inked the final tally as Alaska failed to reach Air21 and dropped to a 2-2 win-loss record.
This game proved to be a character-building win for a team tearing up their opponents every game with the vigor of a contender. The only tarnish on their record was against a still unbeaten Barangay Ginebra on Tuesday night, May 27.
“We won 3 games already but I think this one is so fulfilling because in spite of us playing terrible, whether it’s offense or defense, we survived it," Pumared pointed out about the importance of this win.
After being down 29-19 to end the first period and 38-35 by halftime, the Express put themselves back in the game with a 32-point third quarter peformance that gave them a 67-64 lead heading into the final frame.
And much like their previous wins, Air21 once again relied on their ability to go full throttle on offense as 5 Express players landed double digit outputs.
Import Dominique Sutton amassed 22 points and 10 rebounds, while Asi Taulava remained steady with a 15-point, 15-rebound performance.
Mark Borboran and Joseph Yeo added 11 and 10 points, respectively.
AIR21 91 - Sutton 22, Taulava 15, Cardona 14, Borboran 11, Yeo 10, Ramos 6, Atkins 6, Villanueva 3, Poligrates 2, Camson 2, Villanueva E. 0, Jaime 0, Burtscher 0.
ALASKA 88 - Casio 18, Walker 13, Espinas 12, Baguio 12, Jazul 8, Abueva 7, Thoss 6, Belasco 5, Hontiveros 5, Manuel 2, Dela Cruz 0.
Quarter scores: 19-29, 35-38, 67-64, 91-88.