MANILA, June 9, 2004
By Nelson Beltran  -  San Miguel Beer and Alaska Milk are coming out fresh from a long break while battle weary Red Bull Barako and Barangay Ginebra are enjoying the momentum as they figure in the opening twinbill in the quarterfinal round of the Gran Matador PBA Fiesta Conference at the Araneta Coliseum today.

The Kings and the Aces collide at 4:45 p.m. then the Beermen and the Thunder clash at 7:10 p.m., going for the decisive head start in the brief quarterfinals featuring foreign guest teams US Pro-Am Selection and the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds.

It will only be a one-round-robin affair for both groups of four teams with the top two from each group advancing to the crossover best-of-three semifinals. Thus, every game in the round would be as vital like a playoff contest.

Forget San Miguelís dominating 16-2 win-loss performance in the elimination round since the Beermen, like the rest, are starting from scratch in the virtual one-loss-you-die round.

And thatís the worry of San Miguel coach Jong Uichico especially with his team inactive the last nine days.

"Yun ang disadvantage noong maaga kaming nakapasok sa quarterfinals. Ang haba ng pahinga at ang unang kalaban namin sa quarterfinals is enjoying the momentum," said Uichico.

Uichico, however, is hopeful they were able to work on things needed to improve on their game in their long break after their last game in the eliminations curiously versus Red Bull itself last May 30.

The Beermen dominated the Thunder in two meetings in the elims but Uichico expects an entirely different game today.

But the Thunder could really come out an inspired lot after their improbable comeback from a 25-point deficit for an 83-82 nail-biter over the Shell Turbochargers in their knockout game Sunday.

"Mayroon kaming triple-overtime win tapos itong unbelievable game na ito. Baka mayroon pang magandang padating," said Red Bull coach Yeng Guiao after their shocker of a win over Shell.

"It could be a sign. Kaya talagang ang lakas ng feeling ko papasok kami sa semis," said Red Bull team manager Tony Chua.

Ginebra is also riding the momentum of a pocket-sized come-from-behind win as it plays Alaska tonight.

The Kings overcame a 16-point third-quarter deficit in ousting the Sta. Lucia Realtors, 108-105, also last Sunday.

Red Bull and San Miguel are with Talk n Text and the US Pro-Am Selection in the powerhouse Group A while Alaska and Ginebra are with Coca-Cola and University of British Columbia in Group B.

The Americans and the Canadians plunge into action in the tourney versus the Thunder and the Kings, respectively, on Sunday.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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