TEHRAN, MAY 18, 2007
(MALAYA) BY NOLI CORTEZ - San Miguel-RP Team finally found its groove and beat Bahrain’s Al Muharraq 99-80 Wednesday to advance to the quarterfinals of the 18th FIBA Asia Champions Cup at the Azadi Stadium here.

Grittily bucking a sprained right ankle, Danny Seigle scored 20 points while three others, led by Asi Taulava who had 18 points and 14 rebounds, also turned in double figures in a game they mostly dominated from the start.

"This game is like letting out all our frustrations," said Seigle, his ankle injured in Monday’s loss to Kazakhstan’s Astana Tigers heavily wrapped in ice after the game.

The win, just the first in four games for the Nationals, made them the third and last qualifier from Group B to Friday’s quarterfinals.

RP coach Chot Reyes pointed out his team finally went up against an opponent that didn’t have a dominant, seven-foot import like those from Iran, Kazakhstan and Syria.

"They (Bahrain imports) are quietly efficient and blue collar workers, much like taller versions of a (Alaska import) Rosell Ellis. But our discrepancy in size is not that big and that’s the only opening we needed," he said.

Six-foot-seven A.M. Akintunde had 21 points and 12 rebounds but fellow African reinforcement 6-foot-10 S.B. Edeghe only had 13 points and five rebounds against the defense anchored on Taulava and Rico Villanueva.

"I also like going up against 7-footers. But if they’re a bit shorter it’s still fine by me," said the 6-foot-9 Taulava, with the 6-foot-6 Villanueva the shortest among the centers in this tournament.

Thursday is a rest day for the tournament, but not for the Nationals who have squeezed in a tune-up game with the Iran National team that has a 7-foot-5 center and two players standing at 6-foot-11.

Reyes said it is part of his team’s buildup for next week’s SEABA tournament and July’s FIBA Asia Men’s championship. "We may be meeting the same Iranian team in the FIBA Asia so better to get a feel of them now," he said.

The Nationals must make do without Tony dela Cruz, who got added to the list of their injured when he suffered a left ankle sprain just seconds after being fielded in the first quarter.

"I stepped on somebody’s foot and felt my ankle pop," related the 6-foot4 forward who was initially diagnosed with a second-degree sprain.

Jimmy Alapag (left ankle) was used sparingly and Mick Pennisi (bruised left knee) was not fielded at all against Bahrain. Jayjay Helterbrand ably did most of the playmaking chores and Ranidel de Ocampo and Kerby Raymundo were foremost among those who helped patrol the lanes or provide help defense.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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