PHONE PALS END 'WINNINGEST' SEASON

MANILA, DECEMBER 1, 2003  (STAR) By Nelson Beltran - Talk n Text overwhelmed an importless Sta. Lucia Realty squad in all quarters and scored a 123-106 rout for third place honors in the Samsung PBA Reinforced Conference at the Araneta Coliseum last night.

Damien Cantrell piled up big numbers with 35 points, 20 rebounds, four assists, two blocks and one steal with Ray Tutt gone in the Sta. Lucia lineup, leading the Phone Pals to a four-game sweep of the Realtors in the season.

The Phone Pals missed the Reinforced Conference finals but still established a franchise record with two trophies won in the season — the All-Filipino championship and the third conference third-place plum. The team had never gained the feat since taking over the Pepsi-Cola franchise in 1996.

With their third runner-up finish, the Realtors also achieved a franchise first — two finishes inside the Top Four.

Talk n Text came up with its most number of wins in a season with 32 in 56 games for .571 percent. Sta. Lucia closed out its campaign in the season with a 23-26 win-loss record for .469.

"I think the season is good enough since we won one championship. The management would have been happier had we made it to the (third-conference) finals but lots of incidents happened," said Talk n Text coach Joel Banal, alluding, for one, to the injury suffered by prized pointguard Jimmy Alapag.

"The management also wanted to win third-place honors. At least, we ended our season on a winning note. And hopefully, we can carry this over next season," Banal added.

The rookie PBA mentor said he’ll be meeting his staff Monday to make their plans for next year.

"We have seven players with expiring contracts. We’ll talk on what kind of talents we want and who to keep in our roster," he said.

Asi Taulava had a near double-double job with 25 points and seven rebounds but the cut-off date for the statistical race in the season MVP derby had been over.

Coca-Cola’s Rudy Hatfeld topped the stats race with 4,327, followed by Taulava with 4,309, Jeffrey Cariaso with 3,825, Rafi Reavis 3,612, Alapag 3,424.

The PBA Annual Awards Night is on Dec. 15 at the Music Museum in Greenhills.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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