MANILA, MAY 31, 2007
(MALAYA) COCA-COLA showed up with an explosive new import in Rashad Bell but Red Bull still had the last laugh last night as the Bulls scored a 105-103 win and secured the first semis berth in the Talk N Text PBA Fiesta Conference at the Araneta Coliseum.

The Bulls survived the 39-point production of Bell, sinking the shots that mattered most in the stretch to become the first team to reach the finals, a rarity, according to coach Yeng Guiao.

"We were lucky to come out with a victory considering how good their import played tonight. We donít know him. We just saw him tonight and it was too late for us to make the adjustment," said Red Bull coach Yeng Guiao.

On reaching the semis first, he said: "This is an unfamiliar territory for us. Weíve not earned a free ride to the semis since the league instituted this kind of format. So we have to plan our activity or the players might get rusty."

Bell, 25, sank six of 12 three-point attempts, hauled down 14 rebounds and dished out three assists in 44 minutes. Too bad he came in just now, or the Tigers could have made a run for at least a quarterfinals slot.

While the Bulls finished the eliminations with a 13-5 record, the Tigers wound up with a 7-11 mark and must stamp their mark in the wild card phase to keep their title hopes alive.

Bell outclassed Red Bull import James Penny scoring wise. Penny just had 13 points but he scored four of Red Bullís last five points, including a basket over Bell in an isolation play in the last 15.2 seconds, to give the Bulls a 104-103 lead.

Bell, Coca-Colaís third import after Anthony Johnson and Jeff Varem, tried to push the Tigers back on top and steal the win but his shot hit the backboard hard and bounced off without hitting the ring.

A steal and a lay-up by Kenneth Duremdes gave the Tigers the lead 103-102 with 47 second to go and even had a chance to pad the lead when Red Bull missed on its next possession. But Tiger guard Alex Cabagnot was called for a traveling violation as he tried to attack the lane.

Penny also had 15 rebounds, two steals, two assists and three blocks in 32 minutes. Cyrus Baguio scored 26 points and Mike Hrabak added 17 points for Red Bull.

At press time, San Miguel Beer was battling Air21 in a crucial game that may decide which of them marches into the quarterfinals.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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