Quezon City, June 9, 2003 By Nelson Beltran, (Star) Rafi Reavis held his own against Asi Taulava and Johnny Abarrientos matched up well with Jimmy Alapag though playing hurt as the Coca-Cola repulsed Talk N Text, 94-91, for a virtual entry into the Samsung PBA All-Filipino Final Four at the Araneta Coliseum last night.

Reavis put up his own double-double game against the hulking Taulava and Abarrientos made significant numbers coming back from a four-game layoff as the Tigers’ Mutt and Jeff tandem led the team to a second straight win in the quarterfinals that guaranteed the team of a playoff crack at the semis.

"I have to pay tribute to the courage of some of my players. There were Johnny (Abarrientos) and Rudy (Hatfield) who came out and worked hard despite being ill," said Coca-Cola coach Chot Reyes.

Abarrientos was still nursing a hamstring injury while Hatfield still recovering from a bout of food poisoning.

The two made their presence felt in the contest, helping Coca-Cola made one more big step in its title-retention bid in the tourney.

"Hindi ako pinipilit ni
coach na bumalik na. Pero sabi ko baka pwede na dahil maigsing round lang ito, gusto kong makatulong," said Abarrientos, who piled up 17 points, five rebounds and three assists.

"We’re on the track and we’re right where we wanted to be at the moment. This is a tribute to our pointguards. Ato Morano played well against Ginebra (last Wednesday) and tonight there’s Johnny," said Jeffrey Cariaso, who paced the team with 24 points. "Noong elimination round sila ang na-miss namin kaya medyo hirap kami."

With Abarrientos providing the leadership at the backcourt and Reavis supplying the power underneath the basket, the Tigers erected a 17-point lead in the third quarter but they wavered a bit in the final period, allowing the Phone Pals to close in at the finish.

The Phone Pals, meanwhile, reeled from woeful free throw shooting.

Red Bull squandered a huge third-quarter lead but outmaneuvered Barangay Ginebra in a topsy-turvy finish, keeping its semis hopes alive with a 101-93 win in the second game.

Nelson Asaytono fired 18 points to unseat Allan Caidic at No. 9 in the all-time scoring list and at the same time oust Caidic’s team in the semis race.

Taulava muffed 11 attempts from the stripe and his teammates combined for nine missed free throws, hastening their downfall.

Ironically, Alapag made a charity which he intended to miss with the team down by two at 90-92 with just three ticks left.

Poch Juinio canned in his free throws off a desperation foul by Vic Pablo for the final count.

Taulava scored 11 of his 28 points in the fourth quarter and Alapag added nine of his own in the same period as the Phone Pals waged a searing chase.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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