PBA: COOKE CAN'T MAKE HOTDOGS SIZZLE VS. FEDEX 105 - 121

ANTIPOLO, OCTOBER 4, 2003 (STAR) By Nelson Beltran  - Before LeBron James, there was Leonard Cooke.

Once the No. 1 high school player in the entire United States, Cooke, however, showed his stuff last night but could only do so much as the Purefoods Hotdogs remained on a slump, bowing to the FedEx Express, 105-121, in their Samsung PBA Reinforced Conference at the Ynares Sports Center here last night.

Cooke, the 21-year-old New York playground legend who took over from Harold Arceneaux, erupted for 49 points and 17 rebounds which went down the drain as the Hotdogs suffered a fourth straight defeat and their sixth in seven outings in the season-ending tourney.

With Terrence Shannon measuring up to the challenge of Cooke and the FedEx locals outplaying their Purefoods counterparts, the Express checked their own skid, and regained second place in Group A with a 3-5 win-loss record.

"Kahit kadadating lang ni Cooke maganda ang inilaro niya. Kaya lang hindi pwedeng domination lang ng import. Kailangan tulungan ng locals," said FedEx coach Boni Garcia.

Help one another the Express did with Shannon concentrating at the paint this time as they snapped a three-game losing skein.

"Malaking adjustment ang ginawa namin. I put Shannon at No. 4 spot dahil wala kaming makuha sa ilalim. At nagsakripisyo ang maliliit namin dahil pumunta muna kami kay Shannon," Garcia pointed out.

Shannon outdid himself while operating in the shaded lane, scattering 39 points and 13 rebounds in 43 minutes of action. Before the game, the reed-thin but high-leaping FedEx import averaged 26.3 points and 10.3 rebounds.

But Cooke did his own thing, gaining respect from the PBA watchers on his impressive debut with the Hotdogs under interim coach Ronnie Magsanoc. Head coach Ryan Gregorio is currently in the US, attending the Minnesota Timberwolves camp as an observer.

Cooke’s 49 was the best by any debuting import in the league this conference. It was two points shy of the current season high made by Damien Cantrell of Talk n Text.

In the Ginebra-Purefoods King of the Court one-on-one competition, San Miguel’s Joey Mente advanced to the second round in the below 6-4 category with a 14-12 decision over Alaska’s Brandon Cablay.

Mente hit the winning basket at the buzzer as he joined Christ Calaguio and Francis Adriano in the next round. UP next in the one-on-one event is the Willie Miller-Noy Castillo duel Sunday then the Jeffrey Cariaso-Jimmy Alapag tussle Wednesday. Castillo replaced Rey Evangelista.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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