MANILA, NOVEMBER 13, 2003 (STAR) By Nelson Beltran - Ray Tutt struggled in his first game as Sta. Lucia import but the local Realtors stepped up their game to repulse Alaska Milk, 88-79, in Game One of their Samsung PBA Reinforced Conference best-of-three quarterfinal showdown at the Philsports Arena last night.

Dennis Espino, Marlou Aquino and Kenneth Duremdes delivered huge numbers while Jason Webb and Kiko Adriano came up with great hustle plays as the Realtors stopped the march of the underdogs in the quarterfinals.

"I was thinking of the jinx like when they’re catching up, I was telling myself here we go. Kala ko magtutulog-tuloy ang talo ng mga topseeds," said Sta. Lucia coach Alfrancis Chua.

"Basahan kami ng basahan ni (Alaska coach) Tim (Cone) all game long. I was just lucky my (local) players stepped up. While Tutt was still adjusting to our game, Dennis, Marlou, Kenneth, Jason and Kiko stepped up and did the job," Chau added.

Espino scored a game-high 26 points and also pulled down eight rebounds while Aquino added 17 points, four rebounds and the same number of assists, and Duremdes 15 points, seven assists and six rebounds.

Webb and Adriano combined for only six points but played with a lot of spunk to help the Realtors sustain their charge in the eliminations.

The Group A topseed goes for the killer versus the fourth seed in their second game Sunday. "I know Alaska will come back strong in Game Two and I hope we can sustain our agressiveness. Kung nandoon pa rin ang gigil namin, makukuha namin ang gusto naming kunin," said Chua.

The Realtors did play aggressively last night, dominating the Aces although they lost one key player in Gerard Francisco on a fractured finger right in the first quarter.

Ali Peek came out in uniform but Cone opted to keep his ace slotman on the bench.

Sta. Lucia actually trailed by two, 59-61, after the first three quarters but unleashed a decisive surge in the payoff period to win convincingly.

The Realtors pulled away at 77-67 on a 16-4 run triggered by a triple by Duremdes and capped by a buzzer-beating twinner by Tutt.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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