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Air 21 got the kind of debut it needed from import Michael Dunigan, who finished with 26 points and 19 rebounds as the Express outlasted Barangay Ginebra San Miguel, 74-70, in the main game of the PBA Commissioner’s Cup at the SMART-Araneta Coliseum Sunday night.
Dunigan scored 18 points in the second half to rescue Air 21 as he completely outplayed his counterpart Herbert Hill, who scored 17 points but shot a woeful 7-of-24 (24 percent) from the field. The Ginebra import also committed six turnovers.
Hill was held to just two points in the first 24 minutes of play, but picked up his scoring in the second half, as the Gin Kings fought their way back from a 12-point deficit.
But Dunigan conspired with former Ginebra stalwarts Mike Cortez and John Wilson, who scored 13 points apiece, to seal the win for Air 21 in the fourth quarter.
“It’s always a nice feeling beating Ginebra, especially because of their star-studded line up,” said Air 21 coach Franz Pumaren.
“If you look at our lineup, man for man, we’re the weakest in terms of local line up because most of the other teams have upgraded their line ups.”
Pumaren said that beyond his scoring, Dunigan has shored up the team’s interior defense. Air 21 allowed just 21 points for Ginebra in the first half.
“We won this game because of defense. Michael is a big factor. His intimidation underneath is a big plus for us and when the time comes we needed to score, he provided it. He just needs to get used with those pushing and shoving in the PBA,” added Pumaren.
The loss spoiled the effort of Mark Caguioa, who finished with 26 points to lead Ginebra.
AIR21 74 – Dunigan 26, Wilson 13, Cortez 13, Reyes 7, Isip 7, Custodio 5, Menor 2, Canaleta 1, Sena 0, Baclao 0, Omolon 0, Ritualo 0, Arboleda 0.
GINEBRA 70 – Caguioa 26, Hill 17, Helterbrnd 10, Wilson 7, Ellis 3, Tenorio 3, Baracael 2, Mamaril 2, Taha 0, Jensen 0, Maierhofer 0, Hatfield 0.
Quarters: 17-13, 31-21, 48-50, 74-70
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