SAN MIG, COCA COLA GO FOR CLINCHING WINS

MANILA, NOVEMBER 28, 2003  (MALAYA) GAMES TODAY - (Astrodome) 5 p.m. - Talk N Text vs. Coke; 7:30 p.m. - San Miguel vs. Sta. Lucia

Talk N Text and Sta. Lucia fight for dear life today, bidding to prevent sister teams San Miguel Beer and Coca-Cola from forging a title showdown in the Samsung PBA Reinforced Conference at the Astrodome.

It will be hard for both the Phone Pals and Realtors since they are up against opponents that have found ways to score wins even if they're trailing by a mile.

This was best typified by the Tigers who battled back from 19 points down to score a 109-105 win over the Phone Pals last Wednesday. The win was a textbook example of how one rigid spirit could be overcome by the collective fire of a whole team.

Boosted by the return to action of point guard Jimmy Alapag, who wore a Jason-like mask to protect his reconstructed nose, Talk N Text took a 61-40 lead in the third quarter.

Yet Coca-Cola still managed to come back and win.

Tigers coach Chot Reyes credited it to his charges' collective, unyielding heart.

"The real strength of this team is they don't believe a situation exists that they're not supposed to win," said Reyes.

"When we were down by 19 at the half, I told them we can lay off, rest and make this a best-of-three starting Friday. We weren't supposed to win tonight but they wouldn't believe it," he added.

The same was true of San Miguel which used the same formula it had previously employed so well to fashion out a 101-86 drubbing of Sta. Lucia Realty also last Wednesday.

Beermen coach Jong Uichico said what they basically do is pick the times when they could get off big runs, usually when the Realtors' frontliners are given a rest.

"They (Realtors) are coming off a very hard series kaya expected na pagod pa rin sila," Uichico said, referring to Sta. Lucia's best-of-three quarterfinals duel with Alaska that went the full route.

"Lalo na iyung dalawa (Marlou Aquino and Dennis Espino), who play very long minutes. Our plan was to keep them working hard and when they rest, we can make our runs. That's what basically happened in our last two games," Uichico explained.

Those wins gave Coca-Cola and SMB identical 2-0 leads in the best-of-five duels and the chance to wrap it all up today.

To avoid the ignominy of being swept, Talk N Text must summon the same fire that powered it from a 0-2 deficit against the same team in the season-opening All-Filipino finals and into the Pangilinan franchise's first-ever title.

Already, Reyes saw some signs the Phone Pals are capable of coming back.

"They have already made some adjustments and I expect them to do some more on Friday. It would be up to us to re-adjust to their adjustments," he said.

Uichico himself gave Sta. Lucia a glimmer of hope despite history showing no team has ever come back from a 0-2 deficit in a best-of-five semifinals.

"It may be hard winning three in a row, but not impossible," he said.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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