PBA FINAL:  THE WAR BEGINS

MANILA, June 30, 2004
 
(STAR)
By Nelson Beltran  -  After the declarations of war Monday, Ginebra San Miguel and Red Bull Barako are expected to come out with all the fire, pizazz and bravado as they begin their fight for ultimate glory in the Gran Matador PBA Fiesta Conference today.

Thereís no turning back for the Kings and the Thunder after declaring total war in the best-of-five title showdown which starts with Game One at 7:10 p.m. at the Araneta Coliseum.

The Commissionerís Office anticipates a sell-out crowd and a possible clash among avid fans of the warring teams that it made arrangements with the coliseum security force and the police for strict security measures.

Both known for playing with so much pride and passion, the Kings and the Thunder are likely to figure in bruising actions in the playoff dubbed by Red Bull coach Yeng Guiao "a match made in heaven to be played by the devils."

"Pareho talaga namin gustong manalo. Kaya pwedeng magkasakitan dito. Kung ayaw mong masaktan, huag ka ng maglaro," said Ginebraís Mark Caguioa.

"Itís been a long time since the team won a championship. Itís been a long struggle. Weíve been through a lot and we only want to make the best out of it," said Ginebraís Eric Menk.

Menk has yet to play a finals with Ginebra, and the team is to play in the finals for only the first time after figuring in a title showdown versus San Miguel Beer in the 2001 All-Filipino Cup.

The Kings are starving for a title with their last coming in the 1997 Commissionerís Cup while still carrying the Gordonís Gin banner. Only Bal David remains from that victorious La TondeŮa ball club.

If Ginebraís motivation is hunger, Red Bull Barakoís drive, on the other hand, is to redeem itself from a disappointing season last year.

"We want to prove to the people that we can be the best at this time. Weíre motivated to make up for our frustrations last year," said Guiao, remembering their bitter fold-ups in the 2003 campaign.

"We thought we had a good team last year with Willie Miller still in our lineup. We would dominate the eliminations only to encounter problems not in our control," he added.

Red Bull Barako is figuring in its third finals since entering the league in 2000. The team won its two previous championship stints.

With good materials in all positions, coaches Guiao and Siot Tanquingcen of Ginebra agreed their teams are evenly matched that the fight could be decided by technical adjustments during the games.

Guiao is not underestimating Ginebra although his Thunder repulsed the Kings in two games in the elimination round. Red Bull first scored a 99-90 victory on March 20 with DeAngelo Collins still the teamís import ranged against George Reese. The Thunder repeated with a 101-98 win on May 19.

Dating back to the 2002 Commissionerís Cup, the Thunder have actually won eight of their last nine meetings with the Kings.

Through the end of the semifinals, Red Bull has a 15-10 win-loss record as against Ginebraís 12-13. Both teams, however, posted 6-3 cards in the post-prelims plays.

The Thunder and the Kings were about even stats-wise during the playoffs. The former averaged 99.2 points, 55.5 rebounds, 24.2 assists, 3.5 steals, 4.3 blocks and 20.8 turnovers as against the latterís 99.5 points, 50.2 rebounds, 23.7 assists, 7.2 steals, 2.5 blocks and 16.3 turnovers.

Guiao said they have the advantage in experience but this could be neutralized by Ginebraís crowd support and coaching tips from their former American trainer Kirk Collier who has transferred to Ginebra.

"Tatlong taon sa amin iyan. Siyempre alam na alam niya ang sistema namin," said Guiao of Collier.

"For Red Bull, itís like always playing away from home. Ginebra will enjoy the homecourt advantage because of their fans. Siguradong pagsisigawan ang mga players ko pero hindi iyan maapektuhan. Sanay na iyan sa sigaw ko," Guiao also said.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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