SLR 94, Coke 88

On: 30 May 2009

PBA Fiesta 2009

With their playoff aspirations in doubt, Anthony Johnson took charge and saved the Sta. Lucia Realtors from the brink of elimination.

Johnson was almost a one-man wrecking crew in the final five minutes, scoring 10 of his team’s last 16 points in that stretch while containing counterpart James Penny on the defensive end as the Realtors subdued the hardluck Coca-Cola Tigers, 94-88, and advanced to the quarterfinals of the 2009 Motolite PBA Fiesta Conference at the Araneta Coliseum on 29 May 2009.

"The players worked on our gameplan to the letter. And what can I say with AJ? He’s the league’s best import for me," offered Sta. Lucia coach Boyet Fernandez.

A three-pointer by Ronjay Buenafe kept the Tigers threateningly close at 77-78 with still 5:48 remaining but Johnson answered with a quick layup on the next play then scored on a follow-up to stretch Sta. Lucia’s lead to five points.

A dunked by Penny and a reverse shot by Asi Taulava pulled Coke to 81-82. After a timeout, Johnson scored on an alleyhoop dunk and Ryan Reyes knocked in a huge three to sandwhich a basket by Taulava and give the Realtors an 87-83 lead that stood comfortably the rest of the way.

The night before the game, Fernandez said Johnson told him and team manager Buddy Encarnado that he wouldn’t to go home yet and “promised that he would see us in practice on Saturday.”

That Johnson was determined to win showed in his game.

After a seven-point first quarter, the prolific Sta. Lucia import scored in double digits in each of the next three quarters and went on to lead all scorers with 42 points – his second best output this conference -- on a 16-for-22 shooting, including 3-for-3 from the trifecta zone.

He also had grabbed a conference-high 24 rebounds that also went down as his career best in the league and second-most this season, next only to a 25 Asi Taulava recorded in the Philippine Cup.

Reyes scored 16 points that went with his four assists and two steals and Nelbert Omolon added 11 and eight rebounds for the Realtors, who were without Kelly Williams, diagnosed with a blood disorder that forced him to miss the team’s last six games.

The win was only the second for Sta. Lucia in the six games without Williams.

Penny led Coke with 33 points, including a basket with under four minutes left in the third quarter that gave the Tigers a 63-56 lead.

Buenafe contributed 15 points, the same output of Taulava, who also cornered 11 boards for the Tigers, who challenged the Realtors through five deadlocks and 14 lead changes before slowing down in the end.

Sta. Lucia took the lead for good by closing the third quarter with a 12-0 run including seven straight points from Johnson.

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