HURTING TIGERS OUTPLAY BEERMEN

Manila, August 2, 2003 (MALAYA) By NOLI CORTEZ - GAMES TODAY (Astrodome) 4 p.m. - Magnolia-Jilin vs. C. Lhuillier-RP 6:30 p.m. - Red Bull Barako vs. FedEx

Coca-Cola, still hurting and angry after losing the All-Filipino Cup title to Talk N Text, vented those feelings against San Miguel Beer, carving out a 98-93 victory last night to start its campaign on a high note in the Samsung PBA Invitationals at the Astrodome.

Rudy Hatfield came up with his 18th double-double of the season, notching 23 points and 10 rebounds while coming up big despite a late injury in the tight endgame.

He sprained his left foot and had to be taken out with still 3:12 left. He returned with 2:05 to go, with his sixth steal of the game and a dish to Jeffrey Cariaso translated into a lay-up that made it a comfortable 96-91 lead for Coke, only 10 seconds left.

"This is the best birthday gift for me," said Tigers coach Chot Reyes, who turned 40 yesterday.

The present was made sweeter by the way it was fashioned.

San Miguel, which dropped to an even 1-1 record, battled back from 12 points down and moved to within 91-92 after Danny Ildefonso's picture-perfect jumper from left quartercourt.

Rob Wainwright's charities made it a three-point game before Hatfield's frontal swipe off his pressure on Nic Belasco.

It was the first win by Coke since blowing a 2-0 win in the AFC finals. The Phone Pals took the next four games and the crown.

"I told my boys the best way to erase the pain, the rage, of our All-Filipino loss was to continue playing hard, playing well. Iyon lang ang tingin kong paraan para maibsan the feelings that burn inside us," he said.

Johnny Abarrientos left the game for good after spraining his right foot with still eight minutes left. But not after leading a late second quarter surge that put the Tigers back from an 18-31 deficit. He wound up with eight points, seven rebounds and 11 assists.

Main beneficiaries of those feeds were Raffi Reavis and Cariaso.

The scores:

FIRST GAME

Coca-Cola 98 - Hatfield 23, Reavis 22, Cariaso 12, Wainwright 11, Abarrientos 6, Morano 6, Hugnatan 5, Avenido 5, Juinio 4, Chia 2, Antonio 0.

San Miguel 93 - Belasco 25, Hontiveros 20, Ildefonso 19, Racela 10, Victoria 8, Mente 5, Gamboa 4, Paras 2, Gahol 0.

Quarterscores: 18-27; 43-45; 69-67; 98-93.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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