The Alaska Aces ached to do their thing on the floor as their humble contribution on this meaningful day for the corporation.
Marcus Douthit and his Air21 teammates, however, had their own agenda.
Douthit rebounded strong from a six-point game the last time out, coming through with a huge 20-20 showing as the Express repulsed the Aces, 88-85, to gain a piece of second place in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup at the Cuneta Astrodome Friday night.
Nelbert Omolon, Jojo Duncil, James Sena and RJ Kazul provided big help as Air21 won back-to-back and in the process posted its first winning slate in the franchise’s young history. The Express are now tied with Petron Blaze, Barangay Ginebra and B-Meg at 3-2 in the mid-season tourney.
“It was a crazy game. It should have been over in the last two minutes. Good thing, we were able to hold them down,” said Air21 coach Franz Pumaren.
“We’re very happy to score our first back-to-back wins. The downside is that the other teams will start preparing for us,” Pumaren also said.
The Express fought off the Aces’ endgame chase, thus, spoiling Alaska’s night.
Earlier in the day, Alaska Milk Corp. entered into a grand merger with Royal Friesland Campina, one of the biggest dairy companies in the world.
The Netherlands-based company increased its stake in Alaska from about 8.1 to 68.9 percent via a purchase of 535.7 million shares.
Wilfred Steven Uytengsu, however, remains as the company president and chief executive officer.
Team manager Joaqui Trillo allayed fears the Alaska Aces ball club will soon leave the PBA.
“Alaska will stay in the PBA for the long haul. The entry of the giant Dutch conglomerate will even strengthen our PBA participation and Alaska’s overall involvement in Philippine sports,” said Trillo.
The Aces entered the playing court inspired by the news told them before the game.
The Express, however, proved ready for the Aces.
Douthit collected 25 rebounds and 23 points with Omolon, Duncil, Sena and Jazul chipping in double-digit outputs.
The Express enjoyed double-digit spreads in the second half before the Aces made a last-ditch effort to salvage the game, charging to within one, 85-86, with nine seconds left to play.
After Jojo Duncil made it 88-85 on two charities, the Aces still had a chance to force extension play but LA Tenorio misfired a three-pointer with three ticks left.
Bonbon Custodio grabbed the rebound only to throw an errant pass to Cyrus Baguio who was open atop the free throw area. (SB)
AIR 21 88 - Douthit 23, Omolon 14, Duncil 13, Sena 10, Jazul 10, Sison 4, Isip 4, Hubalde 4, Ritualo 4, Escobal 2, Mirza 0, Aquino 0.
ALASKA 85 - Parada 26, Baguio 16, Salamat 9, Tenorio 8, Thoss 8, Baracael 7, Reyes 4, Custodio 3, Eman 2, Gonzales 2, Gelig 0.