MANILA, OCTOBER 11, 2003 (STAR) By Abac Cordero  - While Coca-Cola continued to rise, Bgy. Ginebra continued to fall.

Working behind an explosive second half, the Tigers swept the Kings off the court last night in a crushing 26-point victory in the PBA Reinforced Conference at the cold, half-filled Cuneta Astrodome.

The 110-84 victory was the third straight and eighth in nine games overall for Coca-Cola, now almost assured of a quarterfinals slot with still four games left in the eliminations.

The victory was a near replica of the Tigersí 35-point victory, 121-86, over the Kings the last time they met Sept. 24 at the Makati Coliseum. For the record, Ginebra has yet to beat Coca-Cola in five games this year.

The loss, on the other hand, was the third straight and fifth in the last six for Bgy.Ginebra, which gave its huge following a lot to cheer about when it won its first three games this conference.

But everything has changed since then.

In fact, another big change, hopefully for the better, is in store for the crowd-favorites when they parade former Coca-Cola import Rossell Ellis against Talk N Text on Wednesday at the Philsports Arena.

Even Coca-Cola coach Chot Reyes admitted that Bgy. Ginebra will be a changed team with Ellis, and the injured Eric Menk, around the next time out.

"If we ever meet this team again (this conference), it will be with Ellis. And with Menk also probably back, then it will be a different team," said Reyes, who tried to downplay his teamís early surge in the import-spiced conference.

"Itís just the elims and the real battle only begins in November (quarterfinals)," added the Coca-Cola mentor who comfortably watched from the bench as his Tigers broke loose from a 49-43 halftime and took their biggest lead at 29 points, 98-69, midway in the final quarter.

Coca-Cola import Artemus McClary showed the way with 30 points and 10 of his teamís 63 rebounds while his counterpart, the outgoing Ricky Price, tried so hard coming up with 16 points and nine rebounds in 40 minutes.

Meanwhile, Damien Owens flew into the country Thursday morning to replace injured Sta. Lucia import Nate James in time for the Realtorsí game against Purefoods tomorrow at the Araneta Coliseum.

Owens, who led Sta. Lucia to its first PBA title in 2001, arrived at dawn but needed a couple more hours to get out of the airport because of some documentary problems. He joined the team practice yesterday.

James did well with the Realtors, winning five of eight games but nursed an ankle injury in the last three outings. This forced management to call in Owens as the Realtors head toward the quaterfinals.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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