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Hurting Johnson, Gonzales pace SLR in Game 1 win over Whoppers

STA. Lucia Realty import Anthony Johnson shrugged off the pains of an injured groin to score 13 of his 22 points in the fourth quarter, enabling the Realtors to notch a 93-84 victory over the Burger King Whoppers Wednesday at the start of the Motolite PBA Fiesta Conference quarterfinals at the Araneta Coliseum.

Norman Gonzales also played a major role with eight of his 17 points in the final canto, but it was Johnson's splendid job down the stretch that spelled the biggest difference as Sta. Lucia took what could be a decisive head-start in their best-of-three duel.

“I really appreciate his efforts tonight,” said Sta. Lucia coach Boyet Fernandez of Johnson, who strained a groin muscle in the first quarter and was seemingly headed for a listless game because of it.

In the end, however, Johnson still wound up with a game-high 24 rebounds and five blocked shots, the third time in the tournament he swatted away so many.

Unlike Sta. Lucia, which had to go through the knockout wildcard against Coca-Cola last Friday just to get to the quarters, Burger King was well-rested after making it outright by virtue of a No. 4 seeding after the classification round. Johnson had 42 points and 24 rebounds in that 94-88 win.

The defense and intensity they displayed in that game seemed to have spilled over for the Realtors and the Whoppers could not really match it, although the latter did manage to whittle what was once a 13-point deficit to just 69-71, still 10:35 to go in the game.

Shawn Daniels finished with his 12th double and a second straight 20-20 game with 22 points and 20 rebounds, while Arwind Santos, Gary David and Mark Yee had at least 10 points each for a Burger King team Fernandez knows will go all-out for an equalizer in Game 2 on Wednesday.

“I know (Whoppers) coach Yeng (Guiao). He'll try some other game-plans against us, but we'll be ready,” said Fernandez.

“We just won one and we have to win two,” he added. “So we'll be happy tonight, but it's back to the drawing boards tomorrow and prepare again for Wednesday.”

The things Sta. Lucia mainly prepared for, like Burger King's conference-best transition offense, fastbreaks and rebounding, were splendidly taken cared of. The Realtors had more rebounds (57-50), fastbreak points (19-12) and points off turnovers (19-8).
Burger King was actually held to its second-lowest output in the conference, next only to an 82-78 loss to Purefoods last April 15.

Still, Sta. Lucia could not really put away the Whoppers despite grabbing the lead for good through one gigantic run ending the first period and posting a 42-29 spread in the last 4:08 of the second quarter. That is, before Johnson took over.

Four points by Yee, and a Wynne Arboleda twinner brought the Whoppers threateningly closest at 69-71, before two monstrous dunks by Johnson spiked a 9-0 run that made it an 11-point game.

Charities by Arboleda and David brought Burger King within 84-88, but Johnson had a charity and a shotclock-beating, step-back jumper in Sta. Lucia's windup that spelled the final difference.

Marlou Aquino and Dennis Espino also alternated on a single-coverage on the hefty Daniels everytime he made a post move, forcing Burger King to take outside shots that more often than not failed to find their mark in the early goings.

Ryan Reyes and Gonzales, meanwhile, took turns in leading the Realtors' offense, resulting in several surges that staked them to as much as a 42-29 spread and into a 45-37 halftime lead.

That trend was first displayed in the last seven minutes of the first quarter, when Sta. Lucia unleashed a 21-2 run that plucked it out of a 2-10 bind and into a 23-12 bulge.

Johnson scored all his six first quarter points in that stretch with Christian Coronel adding five and Aquino four. (NCo)
The scores:
Sta Lucia 93 - Johnson 22, Gonzales 17, Miranda 11, Omolon 10, Reyes 9, Aquino 8, Espino 6, Coronel 5, Yeo 3, Jaime 2, Daa 0
Burger King 84 - Daniels 22, Santos 16, David 14, Yee 10, , Belga 8, Arboleda 7, Billiones 3, Rodriguez 2, Aban 2, Quinahan 0, Cruz 0
Quarterscores: 23-12, 45-37, 67-63,93 -84
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