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Air21 stuns Talk N’ Text, 102-100

Games Tomorrow (Smart Araneta Coliseum)
5:45 p.m. – Alaska vs Meralco
8 p.m. – Petron vs Globalport

Air21 rallied from a six-point deficit with less than three minutes left to stun defending champion Talk N’ Text, 102-100, and remain in contention for a playoff spot in the PLDT myDSL PBA Philippine Cup last night at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Joseph Yeo gave the Express a 99-97 lead on a three-point play off Jayson Castro’s foul with 35 seconds left before the Tropang Texters’ Ranidel de Ocampo missed a triple on the ensuing play to secure a crucial win in the season-opening conference.

The Express, who needed an 11-3 windup after trailing 97-91 on Jimmy Alapag’s three with 2:55 remaining, improved to 3-9 but remain at the bottom of the standings.

Still, the win kept Air21 in contention for at least the eighth-and-final playoff spot, trailing Barako Bull, Meralco, San Mig Coffee, Alaska and Globalport – all carrying 4-7 cards for a share of 5th to 9th places – by 1 1/2 game.

“At least with this victory we’re still alive and kicking,” said Air21 coach Franz Pumaren.

To keep its bid, Air21 needs to beat San Mig on Saturday and Rain or Shine on Jan. 18.

“We still need to take care of our own business. The beauty with our situation now is that we still hold our destiny. We just have to win last two games to earn at least a playoff for the last spot,” Pumaren said.

TNT was on the verge of pulling away when Alapag buried his sixth-and-final triple but KG Canaleta drained a three of his own before Yeo scored a layup with 2:10 remaining to pull Air21 within 97-96.

The Tropang Texters failed to score on their second straight possession, setting up Yeo’s three-point play after using the high screen of veteran Asi Taulava to put the Express on top for good.

De Ocampo had a chance to put Talk N’ Text back in the driver seat but his three-point attempt from the right side rimmed out. Air21’s Bonbon Custodio was fouled and made two free throws for a 101-97 lead.

Taulava led the Express with 23 points and 18 rebounds, while Canaleta added 16 points. Custodio scored 15 points, Ronnie Matias came off the bench to add 13 points, and Yeo delivered 13 points and 12 assists.