PBA:  SM BEER,  ALASKA  OPEN  BID  IN Q'FINALS

MANILA, January 14, 2005 
(STAR) By Nelson Beltran  -  Alaska Milk and San Miguel Beer battled in a playoff for fourth spot in the classification round Sunday and will battle again in a best-of-three showdown starting today for a place in the Gran Matador PBA Philippine Cup Final Four.

The quarterfinals in this All-Filipino tourney begin today at the Cuneta Astrodome with Shell playing either Coca-Cola or Purefoods in the other best-of-three match-up. The Tigers and the Hotdogs are playing at presstime.

The Aces and the Turbochargers hurdled the FedEx Express and the Red Bull Barako Thunder, respectively, in one game while the Beermen beat the Realtors two in a row in the wildcard plays.

But coaches Tim Cone and Jong Uichico said the hard grind for their respective teams begin today. Both have high respect for one another.

"We have to come out ready to battle. You can’t afford to relax playing a great team like San Miguel," said Cone.

"This is the start of real tough grind for us. Laging mahirap kalaban si coach Tim (Cone) at ang Alaska," said Uichico.

The Aces and the Beermen know one another fully well since they have figured in many wars before, including four in the finals.

Both are determined to go all the way to a return stint in the finals after a sorry fold-up in the Fiesta Conference quarterfinals. The Beermen and the Aces both took an unceremonious exit in the quarters after finishing one and two in the classifications.

Uichico feels his Beermen are now more capable of getting into the finals with a lineup toughened by the return of ace gunner Danny Seigle from the injured list.

Seigle, Danny Ildefonso, Olsen Racela, Dondon Hontiveros, Nic Belasco and Dorian Peña are likely to play key roles against Alaska’s Don Allado, Mike Cortez, Jeffrey Cariaso, Reynel Hugnatan, Brandon Cablay, Bong Hawkins and Sonny Thoss. Curiously, the Beermen and the Aces split their two games and both finished with an even 9-9 win-loss cards in the classification round.

The Aces broke the standoff with a close win in their playoff for fourth spot Sunday.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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