Quezon City, June 23, 2004 By Nelson Beltran (Star) Who needs Kenneth Duremdes?

Sta. Lucia, taking to heart its embarrassing loss the last time out, came back strong last night, proving it can win even without Duremdes as the Realtors repulsed the Coca-Cola Tigers, 90-87, in Game Two of their Samsung PBA All-Filipino Cup best-of-five semifinal showdown at the Araneta Coliseum.

The Realtors led by 23 points, 75-52, at the end of the third quarter but had to withstand a fiery Coca-Cola comeback anchored on a pressing defense in the final period to complete the victory and force a one-game deadlock in their playoff.

"Gusto naming talagang ipakita kahit wala si
Kenneth (Duremdes) at kahit puro homegrown team kami, kaya naming manalo," said Sta. Lucia slotman Marlou Aquino, who placed the level of his game several rungs higher, finishing two points short of his career high 33 points.

realize ng team na kaya nila talagang manalo kahit wala si Kenneth, dahil ang sama ng inilaro nila sa Game One pero hindi rin naman natambakan nang husto," said coach Alfrancis Chua.

"We’re overwhelmed by the fact that Sta. Lucia is the lone homegrown team which made it to the semis. Eh, dapat tapos na iyon," added Chua. "At noong Game One, naglaro kami para hindi tambakan ng Coca-Cola. Hindi kami naglaro para manalo."

Returning to the court focused to win last night, the Realtors took the initiative early and dominated the contest until the Tigers threatened to steal the game on a full-court pressure defense in the last quarter.

The Tigers made an amazing run to come within five twice, 86-81 and 87-82, in the final stretch. They could have come even closer and probably seized full control had Rob Wainwright buried a crucial three-point attempt with 40 seconds left to play.

Wilmer Ong and Jason Webb sank a free-throw each on desperation fouls by the Tigers in the ensuing plays as the Realtors eventually broke the Tigers’ back, sending their playoff back to scratch.

The Tigers came away with a 34-9 blast in a nine-minute stretch in the fourth quarter while forcing the Realtors to commit 12 costly turnovers.

"Nabigla sa
press. We’ve had to review the tape and be ready for it in Game Three," said Chua.

Aquino played his best game in a long, long while, going 12-of-15 from the field for 31 points that went with eight rebounds, three assists, two blocks and one steal. He only had nine points and eight rebounds against three turnovers in Game One.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

All rights reserved