MANILA, NOVEMBER 15, 2003  (STAR) Looking every bit the team of old, Welcoat Paints seeks win No. 3 and the solo lead when it battles Viva Mineral Water-FEU in the first of another explosive twinbill in the 2003 PBL Platinum Cup at the Pasay Sports Complex.

Backstopped by five members of the Vietnam SEA Games-bound RP team, among them, James Yap and Ervin Sotto, the Paint Masters are again expected to showcase their own brand of ‘showtime’ against a young team that made the biggest impact in the last conference by making it all the way to the finals.

Welcoat, proud owner of five titles since its breakout year in 1999, and Montaña Pawnshop are currently tied for the lead with similar 2-0 win-loss cards.

Fash Liquid Detergent, which ruled the first conference, is likewise installed the heavy favorite when it battles ICTSI-La Salle at 4 p.m. The Welcoat-Viva match is set at 2 p.m.

The Water Force, built around the core that powered FEU to a title-sweep over Ateneo in the UAAP, have suffered back-to-back setbacks, including a 69-70 defeat to Montaña last Tuesday, but coach Koy Banal remains surprisingly unfazed.

"We know how strong Welcoat is, but we have to think positively and that means we have to work doubly hard and sharpen our offense well," said Banal whose charges also lost to the Nationals in an exhibition game last Sunday.

Banal is hoping that Arwind Santos, one of the league’s rising stars, could elevate his game a notch higher to spearhead the team’s offense. Aside from the 6-4 Santos, Banal is also pinning his hopes on Mark Isip, Dennis Miranda and Gherard Jones.

The 6-foot-3 Yap, Welcoat’s leading scorer, is expected to be pitted against Santos in a match-up that will surely revive their rivalry dating back to the UAAP Final Four.

Yap outscored Santos in that duel but the wiry FEU star emerged triumphant as he led his team to victory and capped his exploits by winning the Finals MVP.

With seven Ateneo Blue Eagles playing for Fash, including three reserves, expect also a tense, and perhaps, a rugged game between the Liquid Power and Archers.

The Archers dropped to 0-2 after squandering a huge 16-point lead and eventually lost to newcomer Sunkist-UST, 62-61, last Thursday — no thanks to Alex Compton’s booming three-point in the final 6.7 seconds.

ICTSI coach Franz Pumaren’s biggest worry, however, is not the Ateneo players — Rich Alvarez, LA Tenorio, Wesley Gonzales and Larry Fonacier — but how to stop Fash’s top gunner Peter June Simon, who put on a shooting clinic in the team’s breezy 80-54 win over Blustar Detergent.

Simon, who hails from Makilala, North Cotabato, exploded for 21 points on an impressive 10-of-8 shooting despite playing only for 15 minutes. He had 15 points in the second quarter where he scattered 3 treys.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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