PBA: HATFIELD MAKES DAY WITH WINNING TREY

MANINLA, December 8, 2003  (STAR) By Abac Cordero - The best player of the conference came through with the biggest plays last night.

Barely two hours after receiving the prestigious award, Rudy Hatfield led Coca-Cola past San Miguel, 87-84, for a victory that sent the Samsung PBA Reinforced Conference best-of-seven finals back to square one at the Araneta Coliseum.

Hatfield, a Fil-American, delivered the game-winning basket when he connected on a triple, breaking the gameís fifth and last deadlock in the final 49.8 ticks and pulling the Tigers out of a 2-1 hole in the series that resumes Wednesday at the Astrodome.

The Beermen had one last chance to send the game into overtime but Dondon Hontiveros, after a well-executed inbounds play, was blocked by Hatfield as he went for a triple shortly before the final buzzer sounded.

"What a lucky win," were the first words that came out of Coca-Cola coach Chot Reyes as he entered the press room.

Lucky the Tigers really were considering that they were on the verge of total collapse in the final quarter where they blew an 81-71 lead and trailed 84-82 in the final two minutes.

Tee McClary was named best import prior to the game. He waxed hot in the first three quarters then typified the Tigersí struggle in the final period where he was held to a single charity. His counterpart, Kwan Johnson, went zero in the final 12 minutes.

But the Tigers still couldnít have won it without McClary who scored 34 points in his return from a one-game suspension for fighting with SMBís Danny Ildefonso in Game Two. Ildefonso had 19 points to match Johnsonís output.

"We played a good three-fourths of the game and then almost lost it in the final six minutes. Fortunately, we hit the final shot. But I think we still won it on defense," added Reyes.

As expected, McClary came out smoking. He fired 21 points in the first half alone, hitting three triples and six other field goals, as he towered over Johnson who was held to just seven points.

McClary was so awesome in the second quarter where he outscored the entire San Miguel squad in the first nine minutes, 16-14. He also had four rebounds, an assist and two steals in the first 24 minutes which ended at 45-45.

In the drafting lottery held before the game, Shell won the honors of picking first in next yearís draft, followed by Purefoods, Ginebra, Fed- Ex, Alaska, Red Bull, San Miguel, Sta. Lucia, Talk n Text and Coca-Cola.

Among the players to be considered as top picks for the Jan. 18 draft are Ranidel Ocampo, Erwin Sotto, Rich Alvarez or James Yap.

Earlier, 5-foot-11 Willie Miller of Red Bull Barako proved that height is not all might when he outplayed 6-foot-6 Kerby Raymundo of Purefoods in their Mighty Bond One-On-One matchup, 11-8.

"Itís not really height after all," said commissioner Noli Eala after handing the P75,000 cash prize to Miller.

Raymundo received P25,000.

In another matchup, 1992 MVP Ato Agustin, who last played for Red Bull, defeated 1988 top rookie Jojo Lastimosa, now a member of the Alaska coaching staff, 16-6. They received the same cash prizes.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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