Now contender Air21 eyes playoffs twice-to-beat

Posted at 06/05/14 8:21 PM

Air 21's Dominique Sutton attempts to go to the basket against Talk N Text. Photo by Mark Cristino for ABS-CBNnews.com

MANILA, Philippines – Now among the top 5 teams in the PBA Governors’ Cup, Air21 is seeking not only to gain a seat in the quarterfinals, but also to get a twice-to-beat incentive in the playoffs.

The Express is getting a four-day break after their 80-67 victory over Meralco and this will give them plenty of rest as they lay out plans for their next games.

“It’s been a difficult run for us, and I think we didn’t have the luxury of practicing well as a team because of our schedule,” coach Franz Pumaren said in the PBA website. “It gives us additional rest while waiting for Sean [Anthony] to come back.”

The Express currently holds a record of 4 wins and 2 defeats and Pumaren hopes they could improve from the semifinals finish last conference, which was the franchise’s best since 2011.

“We’re looking on winning at least two out of our three games just for assurance,” he said. “It all depends. The two teams that are vying for the top four are SMB and San Mig. We’re aiming for the top four.”

Pumaren said he hopes that injured players Anthony and Enrico Villanueva will be able to play by then.

“Sean is a day-to-day thing. He’s already doing things that he’s not been doing for the last couple of weeks. Hopefully, he’ll be available on Monday,” he said.

“No chance kami to do any 5-on-5 during practice because of our schedule. So we hardly do anything sa practice, and no time for Enrico to go on a 5-on-5. But slowly, we’re breaking him in,” added Pumaren.

Air21 achieved a franchise first by routing Meralco, a team they haven’t beating since their Shopinas days, 80-67.

Dominique Sutton and Asi Taulava led the way for the Express by posting double-double efforts.

Sutton had 25 points and 18 rebounds, while Taulava responded with 22 points and 16 boards. Sutton also did a good work on limiting Meralco’s reinforcement Mario West to a paltry 7-of-29 field goal shooting.

“[He] takes pride in defending the import. He wants to defend the import from start to finish. We get that energy from playing hard-nosed defense, which he provides for the whole team,” Pumaren said.

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