Pasay City, July 3, 2003 By Nelson Beltran (Star) Whether the hot temperature inside the venue was a factor or not, a well-rested Coca-Cola team simply hustled and shot well from the field to wallop Talk N Text, 93-79, in the opener of their best-of-seven duel for the Samsung PBA All-Filipino Cup crown at the Astrodome last night.

"Game One was very, very hot. The heat of the stadium affected our shooting. Umiinit ang shooting namin and it opened up their (the Phone Palsí) interior defense," said Coca-Cola coach Chot Reyes.

"And with Talk N Text only coming off a two-day rest, masama siguro ang epekto sa kanila ng init. Theyíre still tired and the heat compounded their problem," Reyes added.

The two teams slugged it out in humid condition due to the defective air-conditioning system in the venue.

Talk N Text coach Joel Banal said the heat might really have affected their game but didnít take anything from the Tigers whom he said played so well.

"Itís obvious, they (the Tigers) made their three-pointers. And because of their quickness, they spread the floor. If they continue doing it, weíll have a hard time winning the series," said Banal.

What was expected to be a close match to start the series turned into a rout with the Tigers outplaying the Phone Pals on both ends of the court.

Jeffrey Cariaso, Rudy Hatfield, Ato Morano and Rob Wainwright took turns in leading the Coca-Cola charge. The four scored 10 points or more.

Cariaso struggled in the first three quarters of play but sizzled in the final period to deliver the killer blows on the Phone Pals.

Down by 17 at 46-63, the Phone Pals came back to life at 64-69 as Asi Taulava, Kahi Villa and Felix Belano starred in a key run stretching the last two quarters.

But Coca-Cola stopped the Talk N Text rally with Cariaso hitting his strides. Cariaso hit 13 points in the final quarter and finished with a team-high 19 points.

It was Coca-Cola by 10, 47-37, at the half with the Tigers, as expected outhustling the Phone Pals and beating them in transition.

The hustling Tigers had distinct advantage over the Phone Pals in the first 24 minutes with 8-0 steals, 6-2 blocks and 12-3 in points off turnovers.

Rudy Hatfield was all over the court, tallying 11 points, nine rebounds, three steals, three blocks and two assists in the first half alone.

Ato Morano and Poch Juinio, meanwhile, came out strong off the bench, combining for five three-pointers and a total of 18 points.

Morano was specially hot in the closing minutes of the second quarter, rifling in three treys in a massive 19-11 exchange that enabled the Tigers to break out of a tight 28-26 count.

Taulava managed to assert himself in the early goings and carry the fight for Talk N Text. Despite a swarming defense, he had nine points and as many boards in the first half.

But these were not enough to keep the Tigers from racing to an early 25-17 lead.

Denied of a crack at the title, Alaska Milk gained the next best thing as it demolished Sta. Lucia, 102-79, in their one-game playoff for third place in the Samsung PBA All-Filipino Cup at the Astrodome last night.

The Aces squandered an early 23-point lead but reestablished a huge margin in the fourth quarter in an overpowering performance that handed the team a 11th second runner-up trophy in the league.

"Third is better than fourth," said Alaska coach Tim Cone.

"For our old team, because we won a lot of championships, we donít want to play for third. It didnít mean to us. But this is a new team. It doesnít get anything yet and itís important for us to get this," Cone added.

The team will only take a week rest as it gets back into action Wednesday against Shell in the final qualifier for the Mabuhay Cup ó formerly known the Asian Invitationals.

The final qualifier starts tomorrow, pitting Shell against Purefoods. The other teams figuring in the battle for the last slot in the Mabuhay Cup are Barangay Ginebra and Sta. Lucia Realty. Teams which have been seeded to the invitationals are Talk N Text, Coca-Cola, Red Bull, San Miguel Beer and FedEx.

"It seems silly we need to qualify after winning third place and going a point away from getting into the finals," said Cone. "But itís something we have no control and something we have to do."

Cone expected his team to clinch the final slot in the Mabuhay Cup. "Iím not saying the other teams are lousy. I just feel, my team is capable of getting the final slot," he said.

Curiously, seven players scored in double figures for Alaska while seven hit the scoring column for Sta. Lucia in their battle for third which was expected to be just a friendly match but turned anything but friendly.

Allan Yu was thrown out of the game for a dangerous foul on John Arigo, Ali Peek sustained a cut on the head on an elbow by Marlou Aquino and Brandon Cablay got a hard foul on the face from Francis Adriano.

Despite the cut sustained early in the third quarter, Peek returned to action in the fourth period and went on to pace the Aces with 14 points that went with five rebounds, three assists and one block. The other Aces who finished in double figures were EJ Feihl and John Arigo with 12 apiece, Stephen Padilla and Migs Noble with 11 each and Don Camaso and Rob Duat both with 10.

Alaska hardly missed the the injured Don Allado as the Aces played as if they were gunning for the crown.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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