MANILA, April 12, 2004
By Nelson Beltran - Some good things just never last.

In San Miguel Beer’s case, this reality happened last night with its scorching run in the Gran Matador PBA Fiesta Conference halted by the fierce-fighting Coca-Cola squad.

The Tigers let Art Long do his things at the paint but neutralized the San Miguel local crew in pulling off an 88-85 win in their Easter Sunday showdown marred by another near free-for-all on the Araneta Coliseum hallway leading to the dugouts at endgame.

"Our gameplan was to let Art Long go wild and beat us. But as long as we neutralize their locals, we believed we would have a chance to beat them. Thankfully, that’s what happened," said Coca-Cola coach Chot Reyes as they dealt San Miguel its first defeat in nine games in the tourney.

Long did go berserk in the game, coming away with a PBA career-high 39 points and a career best-matching 30 rebounds, but these proved not enough to save the Beermen from the jaws of the Tigers.

"That was really our idea to let Long beat us for us to cut down local San Miguel players scoring in double figures maybe from six to three," said Reyes, whose ploy worked well as the Tigers allowed only one local Beerman – Dorian Pena with 13 – to score more than nine points.

Curiously, four other Beermen in Danny Ildefonso, Danny Seigle, Dondon Hontiveros and Olsen Racela averaged in double figures before the game.

Nonetheless, San Miguel had a chance to win the game but Ildefonso’s potential game-winning shot in the final seven seconds was blocked by Poch Juinio.

After Mark Sanford made it 88-85 on two charities off a quick foul by Ildefonso, San Miguel went to Seigle for a game-tying three-point attempt that went pfft.

Coca-Cola thus avenged its 73-100 blowout by San Miguel Beer in their game last March 18 in Dumaguete City, gaining solo second place in the chart on its seventh win against three losses.

Juinio, who missed the first Coke-SMB game while still recovering from injuries, played a key role in their rematch, piling up 13 points, five rebounds, three assists and the crucial block on Ildefonso in the closing seconds.

"It’s a nice win to have on the perspective of coming in ready to play competitive against a real tough team in San Miguel. But we’re not kidding ourselves, they’re still by far the best team in the league," said Reyes.

A commotion erupted at endgame when Nic Belasco confronted Sanford as the two teams were heading to their dugouts.

Belasco and Sanford both drew a technical foul in an earlier confrontation in the first half.

"Pagdating namin sa dugout nandon na si Belasco, hinihintay si Sanford. Later on, nandon na rin si Long, hagis si (Bong) Hawkins dahil na-body slam ni Long," said Reyes.

In the nightcap, FedEx whipped Red Bull Barako, 103-100, for its first win under new coach Joe Lipa. The team moved to seventh place in a tie with Shell and Barangay Ginebra at 3-6.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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