NOT JUST A HIGH-FLYING JAMMER
A SEASON to remember for Nino Canaleta just became more memorable.
The man known more for his high-flying stunts just fully unveiled another thrilling facet of his game, in the process enabling Air21 to achieve its immediate goal while earning for himself the Accel-PBA Press Corps Player of the eek honors for the period April 8 to 14.
The record five-time Slam Dunk champion capped a sizzling week by booming in a league season-high nine triples en route to a 37-point performance, helping lift the Express to a 95-91 overtime victory over favorite Petron Blaze last Saturday.
The victory completed the PBA Commissioner’s Cup quarterfinals cast, with Air21 in its second straight playoffs appearance after missing out on all three last season.
The 31-year-old Canaleta helped make it all possible with his latest performance that was just four shy of his career-high set in the Philippine Cup last December.
It was the most triples made by any player this season and equalled the Air21 franchise mark recorded thrice by Ren-Ren Ritualo, the most recent on Jan. 27, 2006 in the 2005-06 Fiesta Conference semifinals against Purefoods.
Canaleta capped his heroics against Petron with a three-point play that broke the game’s last deadlock at 89-all as Air21 completed its comeback from as many as 17 points down early in the second quarter.
What makes it more noteworthy is the fact the output came after Canaleta notched a previous personal conference-high 26 points in a 66-80 loss to San Mig Coffee just last Wednesday.
Turned out he was just warming up.
All those jacked the Tarlac native’s season average to 17.1 points thus far, his highest since the same Bert Lina-owned franchise made him the sixth pick overall in the 2005 Draft.
Things could get better should Air21 again defies the odds and go even deeper in the mid-season tourney.
The Express are faced with a twice-to-win handicap over eliminations topnotcher Alaska in the quarterfinals, but that does not faze coach Franz Pumaren’s charges one bit.
Not with a gem of an import in Michael Dunigan and a determined bunch of locals led by Canaleta. (NC)
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