MANILA, May 17, 2004
By Nelson Beltran  -  First quarfterfinals qualifier San Miguel Beer uncharacteristically played the catch-up role most of the way versus Shell last night but got away with a decisive run in the closing minutes to salvage the game it could already afford to lose in the homestretch of the Gran Matador PBA Fiesta Conference preliminary round.

The Beermen used a 20-5 closing run to repulse the Turbochargers, 97-91, and futher underscore their domination of the preliminaries of the PBA transition tourney.

Though the team is already assured of a slot in the quarterfinals, local Danny Ildefonso said in jest they still worked hard versus Shell because of the oil price increase on the eve of the match.

"Buti nga, nakapagpa-full tank ako bago nagtaas ng presyo," said Ildefonso, one of the spearheads of San Miguel’s vicious endgame attack.

Ildefonso scored on a charity off Jameel Watkins’ sixth and final foul then on a tip-in following a missed jumper by Olsen Racela as San Miguel seized the lead for good at 92-89 with 47.5 ticks left in the clock. The two-time MVP finished with a game-high 25 points that went with seven rebounds, two assists and one steal in 33 minutes of action.

Seriously, Ildefonso thought he was able to play well because his body wasn’t tight.

"Sobra na yata ako sa workout. Kasi kahit may laro kami, nagwo-work out pa rin ako. Kanina nagpahinga lang ako. Medyo pagod na rin ako sa workout," he said.

Instead of lifting weights in the day, Ildefonso concentrated on helping lift the Beermen to their 14th win against only two losses.

Falling to 6-10, Shell bowed out of the running for a twice-to-beat incentive in the wildcard phase. But despite the loss, the Turbochargers stayed at eighth place, keeping a good shot at one of two one-game knockouts in the post-prelim plays.

Talk n Text stayed in the hunt for an outright quarterfinal berth as the Phone Pals, drawing a career-high 51 points from Asi Taulava on an incredible 22-of-24 shooting, walloped the Purefoods Hotdogs and their new import Joe Zaletel, 131-105, for their ninth win in 16 outings in the nightcap.

The Phone Pals bounced back strong from a sorry loss to the Sta. Lucia Realtors the last time out despite the ouster of ace pointguard Jimmy Alapag and forward Mark Telan on various injuries.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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