Mark Isip played an unfamiliar role Wednesday night, drilling in the game-winning basket and leading the Air 21 Express to their third straight victory of the season following a tense 104-103 squeaker over the hard-fighting Alaska Aces in the PBA Philippine Cup at the SMART-Araneta Coliseum.
The 6-foot-4 forward received a pass from Mike Cortez, who was double-teamed on his way to the basket. Mark Isip unleashed a short jumper over the outstretched arms of Sonny Thoss and his shot bounced off the rim before going in, giving the Express the marginal basket.
“Our play was for our guards to create something going to the basket. Good thing Mike had the presence of mind to pass it out to an open Mark Isip,” said Air 21 coach Franz Pumaren, who posted the first three-game winning streak of his PBA coaching career.
More importantly, the Express’ victory put them into a tie for sixth to seventh spots of the team standings.
The Aces, on the other hand, absorbed their third straight loss after a string of five consecutive victories. They fell to an even 5-5 record.
Alaska, however, fought back from double-digit deficits in the second half and appeared to be headed to complete a come-from-behind behind the solid games of Mac Baracael and rookie Calvin Abueva, who had six straight points in the span of one minute.
“I’d like to give credit to Alaska. They refused to quit, but it’s a good thing we were able to keep our poise down the stretch,” added Pumaren.
AIR 21 (104) – Canaleta 21, Wilson 13, Isip 12, Cortez 12, Sena 11, Custodio 11, Omolon 9, Baclao 7, Reyes 6, Arboleda 2, Atkins 0.
ALASKA (103) – Baracael 24, Abueva 17, Espinas 16, Reys 8, Casio 8, Jazul 7, Thoss 7, Hontiveros 6, Baguio 5, Eman 3, Laure 2, Dela Cruz 0.
Quarterscores: 34-20, 61-48, 84-76, 104-103.