MANILA, May 19, 2004
By Joey Villar  -  Reigning titlist Hapee Toothpaste scored heavily on inside plays as it outlasted Sunkist-UST, 68-62, yesterday to formalize its entry to the quarterfinals of the PBL Unity Cup at the Blue Eagle Gym.

Rookie Reed Juntilla led all scorers with 15 points with Emerson Oreta and Francis Mercado chipping in 12 and 11 markers, respectively, although it was the Teeth Sparklers’ inside dominance that spelled the difference in their fifth win against the same number of defeats.

The Lamoiyan franchise lorded it over the boards with 57 rebounds – 27 off the offensive board – as against the Tigers’ 34.

In the other game, Dennis Miranda hit a jumper with 1.6 seconds to go as Viva-FEU turned back Welcoat Paints, 73-71, to move closer to a return stint in the PBL finals.

"We dominated the boards and our big men imposed their will in the shaded area. That was the key," said Hapee coach Junel Baculi, who is seeking an eighth personal title and a fourth crown for the franchise.

With the win, the Teeth Sparklers moved to solo third spot, needing just a win over the winner of the Blustar Detergent-Lee Pipes Ateneo match tomorrow to join Viva-FEU and Welcoat Paints in the semifinals.

Hapee’s victory also gave Toyota Otis-Letran a free lift into the quarters.

Toyota Otis-Letran actually finished tied with Sunkist-UST, Blustar, Lee Pipes and Montana Pawnshop at No. 4 with identical 4-6 records. The Knights gained an outright quarterfinal berth with the best quotient.

Hapee started out tentatively but slowly gained its bearing to take control in the second half although Sunkist kept the game close behind clutch plays of ace guard Alex Compton.

Compton torched the net with 12 points including a pair of triples in the third quarter that gave the Tigers a 40-39 lead. The American player went without a basket in the fourth quarter, though.

PBL notes: League barker Chuck Basilio was rushed to a nearby hospital after collapsing at the break of the Viva-Welcoat duel. Before the seizure, Basilio was angered by a sound director from Studio 23 for hitting him on the back. League physician John Lim accompanied Basilio to the hospital.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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