MANILA, February 24, 2005 
(STAR) By Joey Villar  -  Expect a bigger, better Philippine Basketball League when its 23rd season-opening conference–the 2005 Unity Cup–unfolds on April 2.

Butch Maniego, commissioner Chino Trinidad’s executive assistant, said they may accept a couple of more teams that will increase the number from eight squads in the 2004 Open Championship to a maximum of 10 this conference.

"There are no specifics yet, pero sana anywhere between eight and 10 teams," Maniego yesterday told The STAR.

This came after Trinidad, who covered the NBA All-Star Weekend along with STAR columnist Quinito Henson in Denver, announced the re-scheduling of the Unity Cup March 1 to April 2.

"We want our teams to be completely ready by the time our next tournament starts," said Trinidad in a statement circulated recently. "The move to start the league after Holy Week gives everyone ample time to rest and prepare for what should be an interesting campaign through the summer."

Also, the pre-conference draft for rookie aspirants will now be on March 8 from the original schedule of Feb. 25 to allow players from the provinces more time to submit their applications. Application forms are available at the league’s office in Makati City although written application letters will also be accepted.

To date, Open Championship titlist Montańa Pawnshop, Welcoat Paints, Magnolia Ice Cream, Toyota Otis-Letran, ICTSI-La Salle and Granny Goose Tortillos are the teams confirmed to return this conference. Guest squad Air Philippines is also keen on returning.

Ateneo, on the other hand, is still undecided if it’s going to return or go on a temporary leave of absence after its Open Championship sponsor–Addict Mobile–is reportedly sponsoring the San Beda Red Lions this conference.

Reyes, Luat charge back from losers side By Nelson Beltran The Philippine Star 02/24/2005

Two veteran stars and a couple of young promising players won their respective games in the losers’ bracket to stay in the hunt for the Hope P1 million All-Filipino Open championship yesterday.

Stunned by Antonio Gabica Tuesday night, Efren "Bata" Reyes vented his ire on Edgar Acaba, fashioning out a 9-2 rout for a shot at the Final Four versus fellow veteran campaigner and kabalen Rodolfo Luat, a 9-3 winner of Warren Kiamco.

In a curious clash between the tournament’s youngest and oldest players, 20-year-old Jeffrey de Luna whipped the 50-year-old Roberto Dy, 9-5, to likewise get a crack at a semis berth against the 20-year-old Gandy Valle, who nipped Joven Alba, 9-8, in their own side of the duel.

Reyes yielded only two racks, both on the breaks of Acaba, in a big comeback from his 4-9 loss Tuesday to the delight of his fans at the IBC-13 studios.

Reyes, the top favorite in this week-long tournament offering P500,000 to the winner, was to dispute a place in the semis against Luat late in the night.

Relegated to the losers’ bracket on their defeats Tuesday, De Luna and Valle were likewise slugging it out at presstime for a crack at the semis against the winner in the Django Bustamante-Alex Pagulayan tiff in the winners’ bracket tonight.

Luat likewise bounced back from a loss Tuesday by beating Kiamco to also stay in the race.

"We Pampanguenos feel old because of these rising stars but it’s okay since we’ve been in this game for so long," said Luat, a native of Angeles, Pampanga like Reyes, in Filipino.

Luat pounded the openings given by Kiamco as the reed-thin pool master came through with the masterful six-rack victory over the back-to-back SEAG gold medal winner.

"Masama din ang tumbok ko, pero mas masama ang tinumbok niya," said the 47-year-old Luat, who committed two scratches as against Kiamco’s three plus a couple of foul shots.

De Luna and Valle were steadier and sharper as they overcame Dy and Alva in much gripping duels on the other tables.

Down 3-5, De Luna, from Tayabas, Quezon, cleaned up the ninth rack then pounded a crucial error by Dy on the 10th to seize the momentum on his come-from-behind win.

"I didn’t have a good start but I did get good breaks later on," said De Luna, now seen by many as the heir apparent of Bata Reyes.

"I was confident in this match unlike in my game with Django where I didn’t commit so many errors but still soundly beaten," said De Luna on his 4-9 defeat at the hands of Bustamante Tuesday.

Valle, meanwhile, figured in a slam-bang contest with Alva and only emerged victorious as he cleaned up the 17th rack with the count tied at eight.

"Swerte lang at ako ang break sa 17th at may nalaglag sa tira ko," said Valle, taking the break on the 17th under the alternate-break format in tournament.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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