MANILA, April 5, 2004
By Joey Villar - After a decade-long absence, Joe Lipa is back as coach in the Philippine Basketball Association. Unfortunately for him, Alaska Milk is not about to give him a happy welcome back party.

Banking on solid efforts by the troika of Galen Young, Ali Peek and Mike Cortez, the Aces unleashed a series of telling runs in the second half to smother the FedEx Express, 103-88, yesterday and snap out of a two-game skid in the Gran Matador PBA Fiesta Conference at the Araneta Coliseum.

Young led all scorers with 31 points, including 11 late in the third quarter when Alaska uncorked the first of a series of runs that proved enough to ensure a sixth win in nine outings and send the team closer to leader San Miguel Beer, unbeaten in eight matches.

Peek, for his part, was equally menacing by finishing with 21 markers on top of 14 rebounds, two assists, a steal and a block while Cortez added 15 points, five assists, three rebounds and a steal as the Aces duplicated their 105-80 triumph over the Express last March 17.

And Alaska coach Tim Cone is just too glad he beat Lipa on his return.

"I must admit, itís intimidating going out against coach Joe (Lipa)," said Cone, who is now 6-2 in his head-to-head duel with the former coach of Shell in 1987 and 1994.

"Heís a legend in this game and Iím glad I got him at a time when he is still adjusting with his team," he added.

Indeed, Lipa had to grasp the teamís strength and weaknesses, shuffling his men constantly early in the game. In fact, Lipa, who last coached at the Big Dome in a deciding Game 3 loss to eventual 2001 UAAP champion La Salle, used 12 players in the first quarter alone.

But despite the dizzying player rotation employed by Lipa, who only had two practice sessions since replacing the resigned Boni Garcia, the Express managed to stick close until midway in the third period when the Aces detonated the killer bombs.

In the other game, Bal David had a passing error with 2.8 seconds to go as crowd favorite Barangay Ginebra dropped another close game, 89-91, to Talk Ní Text as Siot Tanquingcen remained winless as a coach after four games.

It was the Kingsí sixth loss against three wins while the Phone Pals zoomed to a share of second spot with the Aces on 6-3 slates.

"Without the hypocrisy, (itís) sad to lose on your first game," said Lipa. "I think we got beaten off the boards but itís only a matter of us being unselfish and adjusting to our roles and we have a lot of time to do that."

Statistically, FedEx committed fewer turnovers with 15 against Alaskaís 29. But the Express were totally outrebounded, 34-62, the bulk of the Acesí caroms coming from Young and Peek.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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