PBA: PHONE PALS STAY AFLOAT

Quezon City, July 7, 2003 (STAR) Talk N' Text turned the tables around on Coca-Cola to fashion a 67-59 win last night and keep its hopes alive in their Samsung PBA All-Filipino Cup finals at the Araneta Coliseum.

The Phone Pals' win narrowed the Tigers' lead to 2-1 in the race-to-four affair and triumphant coach Joel Banal credited it to their ability to grab the rebounds and stifle their foes' outside shooting.

Talk N' Text had a distinct 59-37 advantage off the boards and held Coca-Cola to a 0-of-13 shooting from beyond the arc.

"You don't shoot well, you don't rebound, you'll lose," said Tigers coach Chot Reyes.

Sta. Lucia Realty fended off Barangay Ginebra 100-92 to join Shell in the lead of the Samsung Mabuhay Cup qualifying round.

The match marked the first time in the league's 29-year history that a president of the republic watched a game live.

President Arroyo, along with First Gentleman Mike Arroyo and daughter Luli, arrived in the fourth quarter of the first game.

The Realtors used a big third quarter to lead by as many as 18 points before repulsing the Gin Kings' repeated rallies in the fourth.

Mark Caguioa, who scored 15 of his team-high 27 points in the final quarter, led Ginebra's comeback through a 10-3 blast that trimmed the deficit down to 84-93.

But Dennis Espino, who topped all scorers with 28 points, doused cold water to that fiery rally by completing a three-point play off Bal David to hike their lead back to 96-84, only 2:16 left.

Sta. Lucia then kept Ginebra at bay for the remainder of the game to move alongside Shell, winner over Purefoods at the start of the round last Friday, in this five-team, single-round tournament among five teams.

The ultimate winner joins early qualifiers Talk N' Text, San Miguel Beer, Coca-Cola, Red Bull and FedEx, as well as invited teams from China, Korea and Yugoslavia and the ABC-bound RP squad.

It was also Espino who spearheaded Sta. Lucia's breakaway in the third period that had the Realtors outscoring Ginebra 30-15 to snap out of a 46-all count at the half.

The lead even ballooned to 76-54 before Ginebra staged its comeback, seemingly getting a boost from the First Family's arrival.

Ginebra started the game hot before Sta. Lucia, led by new acquisition Rafael Santos, came up with a sparkling first half game to tie the count at 46 at halftime.

Santos, a former UE Red Warrior who last saw action with the Davao Eagles in the now-defunct MBA, immediately made his presence felt in his first 9 minutes of action in the league as he made 14 points anchored on 4-of-6 three point shooting.

The 6-foot-2 swingman drained his fourth trey with 8 minutes left in the second quarter to push the Realtors to a 35-26 lead before Eric Menk and Romel Adducul detonated a 16-4 bomb in the next four minutes to take the upperhand 40-39.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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