SLR 90, Coke 69

On: 15 December 2008

PBA's 34th Season

Defending champion Sta. Lucia Realty took advantage of an Coca-Cola's undermanned unit as it hammered a 90-69 win to boost its bid for an outright semifinal berth in the KFC-PBA Philippine Cup Sunday night (14 December) at the Araneta Coliseum.

Nelbert Omolon scored 23 points and nine rebounds, while guard Joseph Yeo came off the bench to add 14 points, five boards and two assists for the Realtors.

Last season's Most Valuable Player (MVP) Kelly Williams only had eight points but he collared 12 rebounds, and had seven assists, three steals and a shot block.

Sta. Lucia improved its win-loss record to 9-8 as it grabbed solo fifth in the standings, and in the way solidified its bid for either an automatic quarterfinal seat or a semifinal slot in this all-Filipino conference.

The Tigers, on the other hand, dropped to 6-11. With that, Coke is now just half-a-game ahead of last placed Red Bull (5-11).

The Tigers have the Barakos as their last opponent in the elimination phase as they collide in a virtual do-or-die encounter on Friday at the Ynares Sports Center in Antipolo City.

"We're just lucky Coke has injuries to their key players," Sta. Lucia mentor Boyet Fernandez said. "Pero hindi rin naman natin dapat alisin 'yung credit sa players, they know it's also a crucial game for us."

"It's a nice win for us, a good preparation as we face Red Bull on our next game (Sunday). But we'll be ready," Fernandez added.

For the second straight game, Coke played sans the 6-foot-9 Asi Taulava, who is nursing a fractured left middle finger.

But making matters worse for the Tigers was the fact that two of its other starters did not play -- veteran forward Nic Belasco and top playmaker Alex Cabagnot, who was in uniform but opted to sit out because of a knee injury.

The 6-foot-4 Belasco suffered a hairline fracture on his right ankle in the final moments of a 105-91 victory against powerhouse San Miguel Beer last Friday. He had personal conference-highs of 23 points and 15 rebounds against SMB.

Taulava and Belasco, in crutches with his right ankle in cast, were both on the Coke bench.

They combine for almost 45 points a game on the average with Taulava also leading the league in rebounds with 13 a game while Cabagnot is No. 1 in assists with 5.5.

Sta. Lucia was never threatened in the game, dictating the tempo from start to finish. A lay-up by Omolon gave them their biggest lead, 87-63, with 2:31 left to play.

Mark Telan, the only player left in Coke's 'Big Three', led the team with 20 points and 15 rebounds, while Ricky Calimag and John Arigo added 10 points each.

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