Grace Basa-Castillo, Arab News
Thursday 11 May 2006
Last Update 11 May 2006 12:00 am
MANILA, 11 May 2006 — So much for starting a new life on a bright note.
Air21, days after trading away its best offensive player, didn’t see a change in fortunes last night after Purefoods bombarded the Express from inside and out for a 93-86 victory in the PBA Philippine Cup.
It was the fifth straight win for the Chunkee Giants, who grabbed solo leadership momentarily at 10-3, and the second straight loss for the Express, who are now at 4-9, just a win out of the cellar being occupied by Sta. Lucia.
But the victory could cost Purefoods another vital ingredient in its offensive rotation after Jun Limpot was helped out of the court after just a minute of playing time and a layup because of a severe sprain in the right ankle.
“I refuse to look at my injured players and have that excuse to lose,” Purefoods’ Ryan Gregorio said. “We’re down to eight men, not all of them healthy, but I told the players that it’s still 5-on-5 on the court at any given time.”
The win also marked the longest winning streak of the franchise under the youthful Gregorio and it also gave the team its 500th win since joining the league in 1988 as an expansion team.
“This win is big for a lot of obvious reasons,” Gregorio said. “It’s big because we reached 500 wins first.”
Purefoods came into the game with a 499-499 mark all-time, and the milestone victory didn’t come easy at the expense of a team that was expected to be easy picking after losing Ritualo, who normed close to 20 points a night in 12 games for the Express.
“They are still a tough team,” Gregorio said. “The only thing different in playing them (Express, without Ritualo) is that you can double anyone in the post and not worry too much about giving up the outside shots to them.”
Gregorio and the Giants led all game, and the closest the hard-fighting Express could come was within a point on two instances, the last at 60-61, after Stephen Padilla nailed a three-pointer near the end of the third period.
But the Giants re-established their will, with James Yap beating the third quarter horn with a triple of his own and spearheading the Purefoods offense with 10 of his team-high 22 points in the fourth quarter.
Kerby Raymundo scattered 21 markers, including a three-pointer with the shotclock about to expire at the 2:07 mark for an 88-78 lead that put the game to bed.
Limpot is the fourth player who will sit it out for Gregorio after Eugene Tejada, out with an ankle sprain, Noy Castillo, who is nursing a calf injury, and Jondan Salvador who went under the knife to repair torn ligaments in the left knee.
San Miguel kept in pace with the Giants for the lead, although the Beermen did it in smashing style later by bamboozling their way past a hapless Sta. Lucia side, 98-87.
Danny Seigle led the San Miguel assault, scoring on a wide array of baskets from inside and out as the Beermen rebounded mightily from a loss to Purefoods last week to also be at 10-3 overall.
The 6-foot-7 Seigle shot 16 of his total in the first half alone and the Beermen went into the third period holding a 46-29 lead.
This ballooned to as many as 24, 74-50, late in the third period as the Realtors were never able to find an answer to the damage Seigle, Danny Ildefonso and Dorian Pena inflicted.
Sta. Lucia lost for the second straight time and remained at the tail of the nine-team field with a 3-10 card, its only hope of advancing to the quarterfinals resting on its performance in the losers’ bracket after the classification phase.
“It was a great mental effort today, on the part of the players, despite our loss the other day,” said San Miguel’s Jong Uichico after the game.