VIVA DROWNS HAPEE IN FIRST GAME

Lucena City, June 8, 2003 By Joey Villar, (Star) – Viva Mineral Water weathered repeated comebacks by Hapee Toothpaste as it pulled off a surprising 64-57 victory yesterday at the start of the short but interesting best-of-five duel for the Sunkist PBL Unity Cup crown.

The Water Force looked so calm amid the storm whipped up by the Teeth Sparklers all throughout the game as they came up with the victory scored before a cheering Saturday crowd at the Quezon Convention Center here.

High-leaping Mark Isip played the lead role for Viva, a newcomer in the PBL, as he finished with 11 points. His four points in the fourth quarter helped quash whatever hope was left for Hapee to snatch the victory.

Next to Isip’s heroics, Coy Banal, who also calls the shots for the FEU Tamaraws in the UAAP, said it was defense that carried his team to ego-boosting victory in the series opener.

"It was our defense that helped us win this game," said Banal after his charges beat the Teeth Sparklers for the first time after four straight setbacks.

With his starters sputtering on the court, Hapee coach Junel Baculi went to his recruits from Ateneo — Wesley Gonzales, LA Tenorio, Larry Fonacier and Rich Alvarez — just to keep the game close.

The four, who combined for 29 points, helped the Teeth Sparklers get out of a 35-47 third-quarter deficit but couldn’t do more than to narrow the gap to 55-58 with only four minutes to play.

The Water Force will shoot for a commanding 2-0 lead when the series resumes on Tuesday at the Pasig Sports Center.

Earlier, John-O whipped Montaña Pawnshop, 80-67, to clinch third place. It was the Senators’ best finish since joining the league last year.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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