MANILA, July 1, 2004
By Nelson Beltran  -  Talk n Text salvaged a second straight second runner-up PBA trophy last night as the Phone Pals beat the Coca-Cola Tigers, 113-104, in a one-game playoff for third in the Fiesta Conference at the Araneta Coliseum.

The Phone Pals worked hard when it mattered most, racing to a 15-point lead in the third quarter and going on to duplicate their third-place finish behind the Tigers and the San Miguel Beermen in last year’s Reinforced Conference.

"Third place in the last two import-reinforced tournaments at champion sa last All-Filipino, pwede na. Magandang pangitain (for the next All-Filipino starting October)," said Talk n Text coach Joel Banal.

"We’re gonna have a short vacation then we’ll be back in training. If we feel we have good materials on all spots, we’ll stick with this lineup," added Banal, already looking forward to the next tourney. "It will depend on the health status of Harvey Carey."

Jerald Honeycutt dished out an impressive triple-double job with 30 points, 20 rebounds and 11 assists while Asi Taulava had a game-high 32 points that went with 10 rebounds, four assists and two blocks, leading the Phone Pals in their conquest of the Tigers.

The Tigers just couldn’t stop Honeycutt and Taulava as they suffered a third straight loss, missing what could have been a sixth finish inside the Top Three in the last seven tournaments. They were a game away from the finals but were still foiled in their bid by the Red Bull Barako Thunder in their best-of-three semis playoff.

Some nifty outside shooting that loosened up Coca-Cola’s interior defense enabled Talk n Text to dominate most of the early goings.

But when the Phone Pals snipers’ touch soured, the Tigers managed to clamp up inside and make it a nip-and-tuck affair.

Coca-Cola even took a 42-38 lead on Sanford’s semi-hook, but Taulava scored four points during a 6-1 spurt that gave Talk n Text a 46-43 lead at the half.

Tigers’ coach Chot Reyes deviated from his usual ways and started Leo Avenido and seldom-used William Antonio in lieu of Johnny Abarrientos and Jeffrey Cariaso at the point guard and off-guard spots.

This was immediately pounced on by the Phone Pals, who had Taulava’s tenacity in the shaded lanes and the perimeter shooting of Victor Pablo, Honeycutt and Willie Miller in staking the team to an early 25-14 advantage.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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