PALS, TIGERS KNOCK AT FINALS DOOR

Philsport Arena, June 26, 2003 By Nelson Beltran (Star) Harvey Carey made a career-high 22 points in the first 38 minutes of play then Asi Taulava and Mark Telan took over in the closing minutes, fuelling a stirring run that carried Talk N Text into the threshold of the Samsung PBA All-Filipino Cup finals with an 87-74 decision over Alaska Milk last night at the Philsports Arena.

The game was close all the way till Taulava and Telan dominated the contest, making crucial plays after crucial plays in a six-minute stretch in the fourth quarter to pave the way for the Talk N Text breakaway win.

That put the team within a win of only a fourth stint in a title playoff since it joined the league in 1990 under the banner of Pepsi Cola. The ballclub’s previous finals appearances were in the 1992 Third Conference under coach Derrick Pumaren, 1998 Governors Cup under coach Eric Altamirano and in last year’s Commissioner’s Cup under American mentor Bill Bayno.

The Phone Pals try to wrap up their best-of-five semis series with the Aces in Game Four Friday in the same venue. If they fail, the Phone Pals have another chance to do it in Game Five Sunday at the Araneta Coliseum.

Despite a crucial 2-1 lead in the series, however, the Phone Pals, remained wary of the Aces.

"They know what it takes to come back. They have so much experience you can’t easily put them down," said Talk N Text coach Joel Banal.

"They’re far from beaten. We have to look forward to their comeback in Game Four. We have to play like we’re down 1-2," said Taulava, one of Talk N Text’s big heroes last night.

Taulava erupted for 21 points, including four in a lethal 17-0 assault Talk N Text used to rip the game open in the fourth quarter.

Telan actually stood out in that run as he made eight points, including a breakaway slam off his own steal making it 82-66 halfway through the fourth quarter.

In the second game, Coca-Cola moved on the verge of a return stint in the finals as it walloped Sta. Lucia Realty, 94-80.

The Tigers yielded big points anew to Marlou Aquino and Dennis Espino but contained the other Realtors as they bounced back from their Game Two loss and seized a two-game-to-one lead in their own best-of-five semis duel.

"We tried to start with the kind of fourth-quarter effort we showed in Game Two. We did it and that was the key," said Coca-Cola coach Chot Reyes.

At the end of that fiery run, the Phone Pals found themselves 21 points ahead at 87-66 with time down to 4:59 in the contest.

It took reserves Jon Ordonio and Eugene Tejada to break the spell for the Aces in the closing minutes.

"All our big men played well. Everytime our big men dominate, we have a good chance to win," said Banal.

"We learned a lot from Game Two. Coach Joel made the right adjustments and the right gameplan for this game," said Taulava.

Banal said their Game Three win "would mean nothing if we don’t finish (the series)."


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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