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Coke bounces back from humiliating loss, will wait for Alaska-Ginebra result

COCA-Cola was looking for a spark to rebound from an ugly game. It didn't have to look far to find one.

Asi Taulava mostly carried the Tigers on his broad shoulders in a 105-89 victory over San Miguel Beer Friday night to keep alive their hopes of avoiding a dreaded slot in the Motolite PBA Fiesta Conference at the Araneta Coliseum.

Ronjay Buenafe scored a career-high 30 points anchored on a personal-best 8-for-11 shooting from behind the arc while James Penny wound up with 24 points, 10 rebounds, five assists, three steals and as many blocked shots.

But it was Taulava who led by example and finishing with a personal conference-best 29 points and 14 rebounds that mainly inspired Coke's rise from an 85-122 rout from Barangay Ginebra just two days ago.

More important, the Tigers wound up the 14-game classification round with a 6-8 win-loss slate, enconscing them to at least a tie for eighth spot.

Should the 5-8 Alaska Aces lose to the Kings later in the evening, the Tigers clinch No. 8 and a knockout pairing against fifth-ranked Sta. Lucia Realty in the wildcard round. An Aces win over Barangay Ginebra pushes them to a knockout game with the Tigers to decide which winds up eighth.

The loss, which dropped it to an 11-3 slate, hardly mattered for SMB since it has long been assured of the top seeding and the first automatic semifinals slot.

Coke coach Kenneth Duremdes said his team was eager to take care of their side of the business.

“We're hoping a door would open for us sa eighth spot. We've done our part and the rest is out of our control,” he said.

Taulava said they will be ready if ever they make it outright to the wildcard or have to go through a KO game with Alaska.

“We have to step up our game, play in a totally different level,” he stated.

The 6-foot-9 RP team co-skipper has already shown he is willing to take the lead after scoring just 12 points, on a 6-for-15 field goal shooting, and garnering just four rebounds in 32 minutes against Ginebra.

“Tonight I was more aggressive than I used to be, after the most embarassing moment of my life,” Taulava said. “I had to find some way to motivate the team and even though I took some long jump shots, thank God they went in.”

Despite being saddled with five fouls as early as the last three minutes of the third period, Christopher Williams still wound up with 24 points and 11 rebounds to lead SMB. Mick Pennisi's 13 was the lone other double figure score for the Beermen, who missed Jay Washington and Dorian Pena, both suffering from back injuries, for the second straight game.

Coke was simply too much to handle and because of its main triple threat especially Taulava, who was the steadiest factor for Coke when it broke the game wide open from a 66-61 count. He personally outduelled the entire SMB squad by scoriing all the points in an 8-0 Tigers run that gave them a 74-61 lead.

That gave Coke all the momentum it needed as the difference got stretched to 15 points several times, the last at 91-76, before Buenafe's back-to-back triples closed the deal in the last 34.3 seconds.

Things started falling apart for SMB when it went 0-for-4 from the field and committed two turnovers in the first three minutes of the third period that allowed Coke to pad a hairline 47-46 edge.

Buenafe gave Coke the big start it needed, draining three triples and scattering 10 points during a 19-3 run that gave the Tigers a 19-7 lead.

The Tigers' field shooting heading south after a fine start was largely responsible for the Beermen's fightback. After going 12-for-24 in the first quarter which they took, 31-26, the Tigers went just 6-for-18 in the second canto.

Turned out that was the worst period Coke will have for the entire game. (NCo)

The scores:

Coca-Cola 105 - Buenafe 30, Taulava 29, Penny 24, Belasco 8, Dimaunahan 5, Cabagnot 4, Macapagal 3, Telan 2, Enrile 0, Calimag 0, Misolas 0.

San Miguel Beer 89 - Williams 24, Pennisi 13, Ildefonso 8, Cortez 7, Custodio 6, Gonzales 6, Bono 5, Villanueva 5, Pingris 5, Calaguio 3, Hontiveros 3, Eman 2, Racela 2.

Quarterscores: 31-25, 47-46, 74-61, 105-89.

Source: http://www.pba.ph/content/view/2642/1/
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