MANILA, February 23, 2004  (STAR) By Nelson Beltran - Barangay Ginebra broke the ice in the 2004 PBA Fiesta Cup last night and coach Allan Caidic saw signs his gamble on their new recruits would pay off.

"We avoided endgame collapse. And that's what’s on our mind when we got our new players. We needed balance in our lineup. Kailangan namin ng staying power. Mahirap i-judge with our first game but I saw good signs our revamp would work out," said Caidic as the Ginebra Kings tripped the Shell Turbochargers, 90-81, in the opening game of the PBA transition tourney sponsored by Gran Matador Brandy.

"I'm quite satisfied hindi bumigay ang team because Shell really tried to keep the game close, hoping to make a run to steal the game in the end," Caidic added.

Drawing solid minutes from new recruits Rodney Santos, Andy Seigle and Migs Noble early on, Ginebra's old mainstays Eric Menk, Rommel Adducul, Mark Caguioa and import Rossell Ellis kept fresh legs up to the finish as they turned back the Turbochargers and foiled American coach John Moran's debut in the local pro league.

Actually, nothing was new about Ginebra beating Shell. The Kings have yet to lose to the Turbochargers in almost two years now.

A sell-out crowd watched the tournament opener but a big number of them went home frustrated as they failed to see No. 1 draft pick Rich Alvarez in action even in a single second.

Moran stuck with his main rotation of Marek Ondera, Chris Calaguio, Tony dela Cruz, Paul Ferreria, Mike Hrabak and Billy Mamaril despite loud chants of "Al-va-rez, Alvarez, Al-va-rez in the venue. PBA officials said Alvarez is 100 percent healthy.

Curiously, Moran opted to bring back Calaguio in the closing minute despite cramping out just a while back. The American mentor took out Ronald Tubid who had just pumped in a short jumper and a triple, pushing the team back in the thick of the fight at 80-84 with 1:34 left in the clock.

The Turbochargers went without a field goal the rest of the way and eventually yielded the game as Caguioa stole off Calaguio with 45 ticks left and Shell down by seven at 81-88.

Menk debuted in the tourney with a double-double game with 20 points and 11 rebounds with Adducul and Ellis adding 26 points and 24 points together. Santos and Seigle marked their first game with the Kings with combined stats of 18 points, 12 rebounds, four assists and the same number of blocks.

Calaguio paced the Turbochargers with 24 points with Marek Ondera adding 17 points, eight rebounds and three assists.

Down by five, 39-44, at the half, the Turbochargers unleashed a 10-0 opening run in the third quarter to surge ahead at 49-44.

But the Kings regained the upperhand before the period ended, 57-55, and led by as many as 12, 82-70, as they pressed their bid at the start of the payoff quarter.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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