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Asi leads Tigers to 1st back-to-back wins this conference

COCA-Cola knew it had the advantage over undermanned Sta. Lucia Realty Wednesday in the PBA Motolite Fiesta Conference at the Araneta Coliseum.

The Tigers also knew they would be in for one big fight and got exactly that before carving out an 88-79 victory that boosted them out of a dreaded slot.

James Penny and Nic Belasco accounted for _ of Coke's last __ points as it notched a second straight victory that boosted its win-loss record to -6 overall.

It did not come easy and assistant coach Bo Perasol, subbing for head coach kenneth Duremdes who is still suffering from sore eyes, said they key was his charges utilizing their own advantages than dwelling on the other team's weakness.

“We didn't think about the missing guys of Sta. Lucia,” Perasol stated. “We tried to emphasize our own strengths,” he said.

Asi Taulava wound up with 24 points and 20 rebounds for his first 20-20 game of the season. James Penny added 21 and 14, with nine of his points coming in the fourth period.

Coke's followup to its 120-106 conquest of Barako Bull last Sunday marked the first time in the conference the Tigers posted back-to-back wins. They have not achieved the feat in 17 games dating back to the Philippine Cup.

More important, Coke moved up to eighth-running spot, taking over from 4-7 Alaska. The last two teams after te 14-game eliminations face twice-to-win handicaps in the playoffs.

“Our battlecry was to fight for the slot we wanted, which is very modest, eighth or seventh spot,” related Perasol. “Right now we are at No. 8 and if we win over Talk N Text (on Saturday in Bohol), we will also overtake them. It's the positioning we're trying to accomplish right now.”

The Realtors put up a gallant fight despite missing the services of Kelly Williams (blood disorder), Bitoy Omolon (chicken pox) and Ryan Reyes (stiff neck). But in the end, they still absorbed their third loss in their last four games and dropped to 6-5.

But not after battling back from 29-46 deficit and making it more interesting by clawing back to within four points twice, the last at 66-70.

The Realtors actually were still within 76-82, following back-to-back triples by Christian Coronel and a followup by Johnson, 3:10 left.

Then James Penny sank a charity, Mark Macapagal scored on a fastbreak and Asi Taulava surprisingly drained a triple to put it away, the final score being pegged by a long 3 by Joseph Yeo. (NCo)

The scores:

Coca-Cola 88 – Taulava 24, Penny 21, Macapagal 18, Cabagnot 10, Belasco 10, Calimag 5, Buenafe 0, Catli 0, Dimaunahan 0, Avenido 0, Misolas 0, Telan 0.

Sta. Lucia 79 – Johnson 24, Yeo 17, Coronel 12, Daa 8, Espino 8, Miranda 7, Gonzales 3, Mamaclay 0, Aquino 0, Mendoza 0.

Quarters: 29-18, 43-29, 68-64, 88-79

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