26 April 2014

Express Sweeps SMB Out

Asi Taulava
Can you smeeeellllllllll what the Rock is cookin?!?!

If you can't then the San Miguel Beer team in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) can after Asi "The Rock" Taulava showed them that Air 21 Express will not be taken for grated in a game full of adversity.

The Express slew a corporate giant who just changed their name to San Miguel Beer this conference, 101-95, in a thrilling double-overtime match on 25 April 2014 at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum to notch a breakthrough semifinal appearance in franchise history.

Shrugging off the absence of ejected star guard Joseph Yeo in the second half, the Express came back from 10 points down in the final minute of regulation before hanging tough in the two extra periods to topple the second-seeded Beermen in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup quarterfinals.

"We were able to slay the dragon," said Express coach Franz Pumaren, ironically a former San Miguel star during his long playing career. "I know basketball experts didn’t even give us a chance, but now we’re here."

"This victory is so satisfying and priceless."

Asi Taulava made the buzzer-beating follow-up that sent the game into overtime then hit two big baskets in the second extra period that completed the most compelling reversal this season.

Throughout the game, the ageless Taulava showed everyone why he is "The Rock" as he tallied 16 points, nine boards, and three blocks - the 41-year-old veteran played for 45 minutes. He was ably provided support for Wesley Withershpoon, who finished with a game-high 26 points.

Taulava also reached the Final Four stage for the first time in seven years.

By reaching the semis for the first time, the seventh-seeded Air21/Shopinas franchise also extended the misery of an underachieving San Miguel side which had enjoyed a twice-to-beat advantage in the quarterfinal stage mid-season tournament.

The Beermen blew what seemed like a won game in regulation when they led, 81-71, with 1:05 to go then simply couldn't save the game in overtime after June Mar Fajardo, Marcio Lassiter, and Sol Mercado fouled out one after the other.

The odds also seemed in the Beermen’s favor when Yeo was thrown out in the second quarter for a flagrant foul on Chris Ross, who bungled a handful of free throws in the end.

The Expess became just the fifth seventh seed in history to reach the semis as they stunned a San Miguel side. Because of this achievement, they might now be able to snatch the tag from Ginebra San Miguel (sister team of the Beermen) and be known as the new "Never Say Die" team in the league.

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