Pasig City, June 18, 2003 By Joey Villar (Star) Hapee Toothpaste gave Viva Mineral a dose of its own medicine as the Teeth Sparklers used a sleek running game to trounce the Water Force, 80-65, yesterday and force a rubber match in their best-of-five series for the Sunkist PBL Unity Cup at the Pasig Sports Center.

Patrick Benedicto, Joseph Allan Salangsang and Niño Gelig combined for 14 points in a torrid third quarter attack that saw the Teeth Sparklers outscore their rivals, 22-13, to turn a shaky 44-39 lead at the turn to a big 14-point advantage heading into the final quarter.

Hapee was never threatened the rest of the way with the Water Force failing to come up with the right combination to stop their rivals’ run-and-gun game, enabling the Teeth Sparklers to level the series at 2-2 and force a Game 5.

The winner-take-all game is set tomorrow at 3 p.m., also at the Pasig Sports Center.

This marks the first time that a best-of-five series will be played to the limit since Dr. J. Alcohol won over Tanduay Gold in five games five years ago.

Eugene Tan, for his part, provided the needed leadership lacking in Game 3 as he dished out a superb all-around effort to help the team to victory.

"Kailangan lang mag
-step dahil sabi ni coach ako daw ang dapat mag-lead sa team," said the 25-year-old Tan, a former University of Manila standout who is on his eighth finals appearance with four titles for Welcoat Paints.

Hapee coach Junel Baculi said the key was playing loose. "We had dinner last night and had some fun. That somehow relaxed us and it worked."

Hoping to take the fight out of Hapee early, the Water Force operated on a fluid offensive game anchored on Rhagnee Sinco, who fired seven points in Viva’s big 11-2 start.

But the Teeth Sparklers countered with their own running game to seize control late in the second period with Salangsang, unshaken by a bad fall early in the quarter, and Gelig leading the attack.

Hapee actually took a 44-32 lead and appeared headed to the halftime break comfortably ahead but Dennis Miranda, who keyed Viva’s 58-56 squeaker in Game 3, scored five straight points in a 7-0 Viva blitz as the Water Force cut the lead down to 39-44.

After a nine-point second quarter splurge, Gelig sizzled anew with seven in a decisive 17-4 third quarter run as Hapee sped to a 61-43 bulge which they used as the springboard to post the victory.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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