COKE, SMB EYE WIN NO. 2; ALAPAG TO PLAY

MANILA, NOVEMBER 26, 2003  (STAR) By Nelson Beltran - Will PBA’s own version of the Venus-Serena Sister Act continue?

Sister teams Coca-Cola and San Miguel Beer are determined to keep that way as they seek to follow up their empathic wins Sunday to move closer to the Samsung PBA Reinforced Conference finals today at the Philsports Arena.

The Tigers rapped the Talk n Text Phone Pals, 88-73, while the Beermen ripped the Sta. Lucia Realtors, 109-88, Sunday, but coaches Chot Reyes and Jong Uichico felt these victories could not be used as gauge of the best-of-five semis playoffs.

Reyes expects the Phone Pals to regain their sting on the return of Jimmy Alapag while Uichico anticipates a big comeback by the Realtors coming off a two-game rest.

"Don’t expect the same game from (Damien) Cantrell. Asi (Taulava) and Cantrell will regain their effectiveness with Alapag back, setting up the plays," said Reyes.

"Even before Game One, we knew they (the Realtors) would come out tired after being extended to a rubbermatch (by the Alaska Aces in their quarterfinals showdown). But with a two-day rest, they’re likely to come back strong in Game Two," said Uichico.

Alapag is set to return to action today after undergoing an operation to fix his dislocated nose bridge sustained on a flagrant foul by Jimwell Torion in the Talk n Text-Red Bull Barako knockout match last Wednesday.

Actually, Alapag had been cleared by his doctor to play Sunday but the prized Fil-Am guard opted to sit out the game, realizing the risk he would take.

Wearing a protective mask, Alapag was back in practice Monday and yesterday.

Minus their prolific guard, the Phone Pals struggled on the floor and couldn’t find an answer to the 44-point game of their former import Artemus McClary.

McClary himself expects the Phone Pals to get better on the return of Alapag. But the one-time Best Import awardee is confident they can make it two in a row "if we just do what we have to do."

McClary attributed his swashbuckling performance Sunday on the arrival of his wife Michelle and his desire to show up his former team. McClary and the Tigers are already three-of-three versus the Phone Pals this conference.

The Beermen, meanwhile, pulled one big game together in breaking the ice in their own semis showdown with the Realtors.

The Beermen and the Realtors figured in a rugged contest marred by flagrant and technical fouls last Sunday. In fact, PBA commissioner Noli Eala had summoned Marlou Aquino and Kwan Johnson yesterday afternoon for flagrant fouls. Eala was expected to hand down fines on the two players.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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