MANILA, May 22, 2004
By NOLI CORTEZ - GAMESTODAY  (Ynares Center, Antipolo) 4:10 p.m.- Coca-Cola vs. Alaska,  6:30 p.m. - Red Bull vs. Purefoods

Coca-Cola parades a new import while Alaska reactivates star guard John Arigo when the two squads clash today in a match that could likely decide which team will join San Miguel Beer outright in the quarterfinals of the Gran Matador PBA Fiesta Conference.

With import Mark Sanford's knees about to give way, the Tigers will play with Tate Decker, who gets his baptism of fire at the Ynares Center in Antipolo. Decker is a veteran of the USBL and NBDL.

"He (Sanford) can't take it anymore. All he needs is two weeks of complete rest," Coca-Cola coach Chot Reyes said of Sanford, who has a hyper-extended right knee and a contusion at the left.

"But we decided to bring in Decker in case Mark's injury does not improve over the next few days," added Reyes.

Decker arrived last Tuesday fresh from a stint with the Niigita Albirex in the Japanese Basketball League where he teamed up with Japan star Michael Takahashi. He comes highly recommended by Ron Hale, another American player who once played for Reyes.

Alaska, on a two-game slide, is activating Arigo who seems to have recovered enough from the knee injury that sidelined him even before the transition tournament started.

"I'm really excited to play again and help my team win the remaining games. Those are crucial for us," said Arigo, who underwent arthroscopic surgery in his left knee early last February.

"My knee is still hurting but I'm feeling better right now. I guess I'm 80 percent when I play on Saturday," Arigo added.

In the other game, streaking Red Bull Barako guns for its fourth straight win at the expense of a free-falling Purefoods crew that has lost two straight.

Even the Barakos, however, would keep an eye out on what transpires in the opening game.

Coca-Cola beat Alaska 86-83 the first time they met last March 3. A repeat victory would practically cement the Tigers' claim to the second outright quarterfinals slot.

Alaska needs to win to keep its bid alive for the second quarterfinals slot, at the same time keeping Red Bull in the hunt.

The Barakos could forge a tie for the No. 2 slot should they sweep their last two games, Coke loses its last three and Alaska fails to come up with 11 wins.

Red Bull beat Purefoods 94-90 in overtime last April 14 despite playing without an import. The loss was the second in what would turn out to be a six-game skid for the Hotdogs.

Purefoods brought in a new import in Joe Zaletel and reactivated Jun Limpot from the injury list against Talk N Text last Sunday.

Zaletel, a former Arizona State U standout, debuted with 32 points and 13 rebounds and Limpot had 22 points and seven boards, but the Hotdogs still absorbed a 115-131 beating.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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