TIGERS FACE BIG TASK VS INSPIRED BEERMEN

MANILA, December 3, 2003  (STAR) Whether or not Kwan Johnson plays for San Miguel tonight, Coca-Cola will have to do a better job if it plans to even the Samsung PBA Reinforced Conference best-of-seven finals at the Araneta Coliseum.

The Beermen, in the finals for the first time since the 2001 Governors Cup, drew first blood last Sunday when it posted an 84-81 victory despite losing Johnson to a groin injury midway in the third quarter.

The victory was a big boost to the morale and confidence of the SMB locals, knowing that they have what it takes to win a game or even the championship with their prized import on the sidelines.

The loss, in contrast, was a bitter pill to swallow for the Tigers in that they blew away a golden chance to break the ice in the series as they try to win a second title in four straight finals appearances.

Coca-Cola won the 2002 All-Filipino crown on Christmas day then settled for runner-up honors twice this year. It lost to Alaska in the Invitational Cup and bowed to Talk N Text in a failed defense of the All-Filipino title.

Coca-Cola coach Chot Reyes yesterday said he’s hoping to see a better unit on his side during the 7 p.m. match.

He added that they’re ready for anything that may come their way – with or without Johnson seeing action.

"Hopefully, the two-day break will allow our players to have more energy tomorrow since we had a much more difficult road to the finals than them (Beermen)," said Reyes.

San Miguel and Coca-Cola swept their respective semis opponents, Sta. Lucia and Talk N Text. The Tigers, however, did have a more difficult time against Asi Taulava and company. Sta. Lucia played without an import in losing the series, 3-0.

Johnson hurt his groin while defending against Coca-Cola guard Ato Morano. He was pulled out and was never fielded back after scoring 17 points on top of seven rebounds. — Abac Cordero


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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