MANILA, January 24, 2004  (STAR) By Joey Villar - Ervin Sotto, inspired by the deal he got from his future PBA team early in the day, whipped up a third-quarter storm to lead Welcoat Paints to an 86-67 bashing of Fash Liquid Laundry Detergent in a preview of the PBL Platinum Cup finals at the Pasig Sports Center yesterday.

Guaranteed roughly P5 million in two and a half years by Purefoods, Sotto dished out a highly-charged performance, scoring a game-high 19 points, including 11 in a decisive Welcoat breakaway in the third quarter.

The Paintmasters came up with a vicious 23-4 run in the quarter that turned a close contest into a ghastly rout.

"It’s an important win for us because it gave us some sort of momentum going into the finals," said Welcoat coach Leo Austria, who is to take on Fash mentor Junel Baculi in a sixth titular duel in the league.

The Welcoat-Fash best-of-five finale begins Thursday at the Makati Coliseum.

The Liquid Powers’ defeat yesterday could be blamed partly on injuries to key players June Peter Simon, Eugene Tan, Larry Fonacier and Ryan Dy.

Simon didn’t play due to a swollen left leg he sustained in a game versus Blustar last Thursday. Tan was hurting with a bruised right wrist while Fonacier and Dy suffered sprained ankles.

The game saw the ejection of Patrick Benedicto midway in the second period due to a flagrant foul and a technical infraction. Baculi and Welcoat’s Willy Wilson also incurred technical fouls.

Earlier, Blustar Detergent banked on another awesome effort by Eric dela Cuesta as it smashed Sunkist-University of Santo Tomas, 81-66, in a non-bearing contest.

Two days after a 20-point performance in his team’s 70-68 win over Fash, Dela Cuesta was once again on the attack mode as he sizzled with 10 of his 19 points in the first quarter, setting the tone for the rout. It was the Detergent Kings’ 10th win in 18 outings.

Ex-pro Jenkins Mesina and Nino Canaleta came out of their shells as the two provided dela Cuesta ample support.

Mesina returned from a week absence due to flu and chipped in 13 markers while the high-leaping Canaleta unleashed an eight-point splurge in the third period and finished with 13.

American Alex Compton paced the Tigers with 17 points gut could not prevent his team from absorbing a 10th setback against eight triumphs.

Blustar and Sunkist-UST meet again Thursday in a one-game playoff for third place.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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