MANILA, December 22, 2003  (BULLETIN) Sunkist-UST battles league-leader Welcoat in rare triple-bill: THE FRENETIC race for the three remaining semis berths takes another twist today as five contenders try to outwit and outdo each other in a rare Philippine Basketball League triple-bill today at the Pasig Sports Center.

Viva Mineral Water-FEU fights for survival against the faltering Montana Jewels, Sunkist-UST guns for the second semis slot against powerhouse Welcoat Paints while Fash Liquid collides with Blustar in the battle of detergent giants in the Platinum Cup.

Except for Welcoat which has already secured a semis slot as early as last Thursday, the five teams’ semis hopes remain in the balance heading into the triple-bill to be aired live over Solar Sports’ Channel 29 – the league’s Christmas treat to its fans.

“This is our Christmas gift to our avid fans before we take another break,” said Commissioner Chino Trinidad. “This is our own little way of helping generate interest in the sport and I’m sure all the games will be certified blockbusters.”

With these scenarios, expect a battle royale affair in each game as no team, even their rabid supporters, would like to spend their Christmas or greet the New Year with a heavy baggage in their hearts.

ICTSI-La Salle is already out of the semis picture with a woeful 2-8 record.

With a 6-4 (win-loss) record, the Tigers need only to win one of two remaining games to advance into the next round but the odds of beating the James Yap-led Paint Masters – and extending their winning run to four games – appear formidable.

For one, the confidence level of Welcoat has been buoyed up by its vengeful 82-77 win over Fash Liquid last Saturday. The Liquid Power squad is the only team they failed to beat in the first round.

Sunkist’s bid depends largely on Alex Compton and the fast-rising Jemmal Vizvarra, the team’s 1-2 punch. Compton was amazing the last time out as he tallied eight triples en route to posting a tournament-high 31 points in leading his team to a stunning 101-94 overtime win over Montana.

Vizcarra, who like Compton is also armed with a deft shooting touch from long range, added 28 on 5-for-10 shooting from the 3-point zone, a feat that boosted his stock as the next important player in the UAAP next season.

Inspired by their title win over San Sebastian in the recent Champions League, the Water Force are slowly getting back their once deadly form as shown by their 62-53 win over the Archers. That victory enabled them to stay in the hunt with a 2-6 record.

The Jewels, toting a 4-4 mark, downed the Water Force in the first round but they have to raise their level of play by several notches to check a two-game losing run.

The Liquid Power, widely regarded as the team to beat after winning the first conference, beat Blustar black and blue in the first round, 80-54, so they are again favored to prevail today. Blustar sports a 5-4 record while Fash has an even 4-4 mark.

Rich Alvarez, Nino Gelig and Peter June Simon must play true to form to enhance their semis bid, and perhaps make coach Junel Baculi happy this Christmas.

Baculi seems to be incensed with the on-and-off performances of his stars players.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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