Manila, July 6, 2003 By Nelson Beltran (Star) It is a best-of-seven affair, but the third game of the Coca-Cola-Talk n Text titular showdown today could well decide the fate of the warring teams. Talk n Text will be back in the thick of things if it is able to stop the Coca-Cola charge. But call it a game should the Tigers sustain their run and make it three in a row versus the Phone Pals.

No team in league history has won a championship climbing out of a 0-3 hole in a best-of-seven playoff.

The Tigers promise to step forward while the beleaguered Phone Pals hope to stop the bleeding as they square off in Game Three of their duel for the Samsung PBA All-Filipino Cup crown at 6:30 p.m. today at the Araneta Coliseum.

Sta. Lucia Realty and Barangay Ginebra clash at 4 p.m. in the qualifying round for the last slot in the mid-season Mabuhay Cup. Shell drew first blood in the fight for the last slot in the invitational tourney as it ripped Purefoods, 82-73, Friday. Alaska is the other team figuring in this qualifier.

"Weíre off to a good start and it will go for naught if we couldnít sustain it," said coach Chot Reyes moments after his Tigers gained a commanding two-game-to-nil lead in the series on a 92-89 win Friday.

"Our goal now is to win a game and hopefully build confidence on it. I hope our will to win helps us pull through," said Talk n Text coach Joel Banal.

But Banal himself felt beating Coca-Cola is easier said than done.

For one, woeful free-throw shooting is proving to be Talk n Textís Achilles heel. Asi Taulava muffed 10 of 22 charities while his teammates combined for 10 other missed free throws in Game Two.

"Thatís been our biggest problem since day one. We canít correct that in the middle of the championship series," said Banal.

Banal also thought the Phone Pals didnít put up enough defensive effort Friday. He said: "I always believe defense can win games and even championship. How bad not to play good defense in the finals."

Reyes, meanwhile, was all praises for his players for their hard work and intensity.

Rob Wainwright best typified this as the Fil-Am forward logged 20 points, 11 rebounds, three assists and two steals in 36 minutes of action. The former MBA star played extended minutes with Poch Juinio, Rudy Hatfield and Chris Bolado all hounded by fouls.

"We had a hard time because of fouls. Itís good Rob responded well," said Reyes of Wainwright.

Wainwright is actually just one of those Tigers who have stepped up their games in the series ó something Talk N Text is missing from practically all its players except Asi Taulava.

Jimmy Alapag, for one, has suddenly lost sting, struggling in his personal duel with Johnny Abarrientos. The Talk n Text starting point guard had career-lows five points and one assist in Game One. His presence was hardly felt in Game Two until he made back-to-back treys in the closing seconds.

Banal said Alapag has yet to make the needed adjustments in his game while playing Abarrientos now after his showdown with Mike Cortez in the semis.

But PBA watchers simply think Alapag has lost his edge while up against equally speedy Coca-Cola guards.

The Coca-Cola backcourt completely outplayed its Coca-Cola counterpart in the first two games of the series.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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