MANILA, March 11, 2006
(STAR) By Nelson Beltran - Air21 proved its quarterfinal round victory over Talk n Text in the recent Fiesta Cup was no fluke as the Express repulsed the Phone Pals, 105-102, in the Gran Matador PBA Philippine Cup last night at the Araneta Coliseum.

Rookie Niño Canaleta scored a career-high 18 points while four teammates, including former Talk n Text mainstay Mark Telan, added 14 points or more as the Express broke into the win-column in the All-Filipino tourney after bowing to the Coca-Cola Tigers last Sunday.

The Phone Pals suffered a second straight loss under new coach Derrick Pumaren and with a revamped lineup now featuring Vergel Meneses, Poch Juinio, John Ferriols and Anton Villoria.

Willie Miller narrowly missed the final buzzer with an incredible step-out, turnaround three-pointer as the Express failed to avoid a second consecutive defeat following an 81-98 blowout by the Barangay Ginebra Kings last Wednesday.

Going down the drain with their defeat was Jimmy Alapag’s third career 30-point output.

"It’s about some of our players stepping up and getting some of the numbers Shawn Daniels used to deliver for us," said Air21 coach Bo Perasol.

"Before this game, I felt the boys were still thinking Daniels was still with us. I told them that they have to realize that Daniels is gone and they have to play above and beyond their usual games if we’re ambitioning to go somewhere in this tourney," Perasol added.

Telan was among those who responded to Perasol’s challenge and the 6-foot-6 center-forward later said he’s glad to beat his former team.

"Gusto ko talagang bumawi sa Talk n Text. Nasaktan ako sa ginawa nila sa akin. They’d told the press that they’re keeping the team intact. Then a week before the tournament started, they traded me," said Telan.

The former La Salle standout had a double-double game with 16 points and 13 rebounds and also logged three blocks aand one steal in 35 minutes of action.

However, Canaleta proved to be Air21’s biggest hero as the former UE forward scored 15 of his 18 points in the payoff period, including back-to-back triples that gave the Express a three-point lead which they kept to the finish.

Earlier, Canaleta also executed a powerful slam off Vergel Meneses that sent the crowd up on their feet.

But Talk n Text just refused to give up the fight till the end.

In the nightcap, Barangay Ginebra worked extra hard with Eric Menk playing limited minutes due to an ankle sprain, subduing Sta. Lucia Realty, 98-93, to gain a share of the lead with idle Coca-Cola with identical 2-0 win-loss cards.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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