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AIR21 PULLS RUG FROM UNDER ALASKA

10:41 PM March 15, 2013

ANTIPOLO – Michael Dunigan had strong collisions and heated altercations with Rob Dozier, Gabby Espinas and Nic Belasco.

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The Air21 import went through a tough physical battle and survived, leading the Express to a 74-68 win over the league-leading Alaska Aces in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup at the Ynares Sports Center here Friday night.

“It was very physical out there, but I played along with it. I can handle it,” said Dunigan.

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The massively built import endured the battle, coming through with 25 points, 14 rebounds and five blocks as the Express made it two in a row and caught up with the Barako Bull Energy at seventh place at 3-5.

The Aces suffered a second loss in their last three games but remained in the lead at 6-2.

The Express nailed their first back-to-back victories in the conference which they dedicated to Simon Atkins whose father passed away Monday.

“We really came here prepared for what we’re going to do. My coaching staff did a good job in our preparation,” said Air21 coach Franz Pumaren. “It was a great game and I guess we played good defense. We held them down right from the start.”

True enough, the Express played good “D,” holding Rob Dozier down to 17 points and disallowing any Alaska local to score more than nine.

“Hopefully, we can sustain the effort. We look forward to our Wednesday game against San Mig Coffee. That’s a crucial game for us as we have six games left,” said Pumaren.

Dunigan was dominant in this low-scoring game, striking hardest at the finish as the Express scored a follow-up on their 106-94 triumph over the GlobalPort Batang Pier Sunday.

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He knocked in three straight free throws to touch off Air21’s 11-5 closing run from 63-all count.

And in the same stretch, he had brilliant defensive efforts, swatting away crucial shots by Sonny Thoss and Dozier.

“Mom’s here. She’s a boost not just for me but the whole team,” said Dunigan.

He terrorized the paint, leading to numerous trips to the line. He hit pairs of charities as the Aces built a 14-point spread in the second quarter. (SB)

The scores:

Air 21 74 – Dunigan 25, Wilson 9, Canaleta 8, Cortez 8, Omolon 6, Menor 4, Custodio 4, Isip 4, Ritualo 3, Arboleda 3, Baclao 0.

Alaska 68 – Dozier 17, Abueva 9, Espinas 9, Hontiveros 9, Reyes 6, Jazul 6, Baguio 5, Thoss 4, Dela Cruz 3, Ramos 0, Eman 0.

Quarters: 14-15; 40-32; 54-51; 74-68

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