PBA: Hickerson, Energy, slow down the Express
The Barako Bull Energy grounded the Air21 Express on Wednesday, 109-100, at the Smart Araneta Coliseum to place themselves a game over .500 in the PBA Governors' Cup.
Leroy Hickerson, the Energy's new import, built on his strong debut, carrying his team with 38 points, eight rebounds and eight assists.
Hickerson and Doug Kramer split 12 points to drop a red-hot 15-2 start out of the gates for Barako Bull. Air21 import Zachary Graham kept his team in the game however, scoring seven of Air21's next nine points to improve the tally to 17-11.
The Express later answered a pair of charities from Hickerson with six unanswered points, capped by a long jumper from Graham to trim the deficit to two, 19-17, with over four minutes left in the quarter.
In response, Barako Bull responded with a 14-6 run over the remaining time, taking advantage of the Express' penalty situation to erect a double-figure lead, 33-23, to end the first period.
Eric Salamat hit a jumper to begin the second quarter for the Express as they began a 7-0 run. The Energy squandered their offensive opportunities in contrast to the first frame, buoyed only by back-to-back treys from Celino Cruz as the rest of the team went cold.
Reserve point guard Paolo Hubalde and Graham combined for nine points in an 11-1 run for Air21, scoring several points in transition. The Express then took their first lead, 41-40, on a quick two from Nelbert Omolon off a botched Barako Bull inbounds play.
Barako Bull righted the ship courtesy of a basket from Reil Cervantes, beginning a 12-7 in the last four minutes of the half, with four of the Air21's points in the stretch coming off a pair of hustle plays from JR Sena.
Hickerson, who had 19 markers in the first half, continued his fine play, beating the clock with a 30-foot three pointer from the top of the key to keep Barako Bull in the driver's seat, 53-47.
Elmer Espiritu came off the bench to score four quick points for Air21 when played resumed after halftime, but Hickerson countered with seven straight, forcing Express coach Franz Pumaren to call a timeout.
When play resumed both teams displayed their arsenal, with Pennisi and Hickerson connecting from deep for the Energy, and former Barako Bull Wynne Arboleda and Graham countering for Air21.
A trey from Arboleda brought the tally to 72-63 as the Express still played from behind. Rookie Reil Cervantes accounted for five of Barako Bull's last eight in the third, and Hubalde missed a wide layup at the buzzer to preserve Barako Bull’s 80-69 lead.
The fourth quarter was much like the third before it, as the Energy successfully warded off any comeback attempts by Air21, all the way to the final buzzer.
Center Mick Pennisi was the top-scoring local for the Energy, making 4-of-7 three-pointers as part of his 14 points, while Doug Kramer started once more, and provided a double-double of 10 points and 10 rebounds.
Import Zachary Graham maintained his string of strong performances for the Express, scoring 41 points in 45 mintues of play, while JR Sena produced a career-high 16 markers, but it just wasn’t enough to overcome the superior depth of Barako Bull, which got the win despite poor outings from Willie Miller and Ronald Tubid (a combined 14 points, 0-of-12 from three point territory).
The victory gives the Barako Bull Energy a 3-2 slate in the standings to tie the Barangay Ginebra Kings and Powerade Tigers, while the Express fall to the cellar with a 1-4 record. - AMD/OMG, GMA News
BARAKO BULL 109 - Hickerson 38, Pennisi 14, Kramer 10, Najorda 9, Cruz 9, Miller 8, Allado 8, Cervantes 7, Tubid 6, Weinstein 0, Sharma 0
AIR21 100 - Graham 41, Sena 16, Isip 11, Omolon 10, Hubalde 6, Salamat 5, Arboleda 5, Espiritu 4, Menor 2, Sison 0, Faundo 0, Ritualo 0
Quarter scores: 33-23, 53-47, 80-69, 109-100
Talk of the web