MANILA, May 28, 2004
By Joey Villar  -  Viva-FEU shackled Toyota Otis-Letran with a swarming defense that complemented well with its fluid running game as the Water Force coasted to an easy 84-69 victory over the Knights yesterday to move a step closer to a repeat finals stint in the PBL Unity Cup at the Pasig Sports Center.

The Water Force came out of the half with a pesky full-court press that took the starch out of the Knights en route to posting their 10th win in 11 outings and a victory from booking the first berth in the best-of-five championship round.

"Of course, as we’re saying always, defense is our best offense," said Viva coach Koy Banal.

In the other game, Welcoat Paints opened its own title bid by smashing defending champion Hapee Toothpaste, 70-50, for its seventh win in 11 outings.

It was the Teeth Sparklers’ sixth setback against five triumphs.

Arwind Santos had another MVP-like performance as he fired 18 points, including nine in the pivotal third quarter run that set the tone of the rout. He capped his exploits with 17 rebounds, three steals, two assists and a shot block.

"Arwind will always be Arwind for us," said Banal. "He’s just there for us whenever we need him, this team is always his primary concern."

The only time Toyota Otis, which made it this far following a 73-70 whipping of Montana Pawnshop last Tuesday, was in the game when it took advantage of Viva’s defensive lapses and seized a 21-14 first quarter lead.

From there, it was all Viva show as the Water Force tamed the Knights, the reigning NCAA champions, with a stinging full-court trap to take control of the game.

Backing up Santos in the shaded area were Mark Isip and Gerard Jones with a combined output of 23 points while the talented duo of Dennis Miranda and Warren Ybanez took care of things in the backcourt by combining for 17 points, 12 assists, eight caroms and four steals.

The troika of Ronjay Enrile, Dennis Daa and Boyet Bautista paced Toyota Otis with 14, 13 and 11 points, respectively, but had no answer to Viva’s dizzying defense.

So dominating was the Water Force that they led in rebounds (44-36), assists (25-10), steals (9-3) and blocked shots (5-2). The only department the Knights were ahead was in turnovers where they had 25 as against their foes’ 15.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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