MANILA, July 3, 2004
By Nelson Beltran  -  Red Bull Barako just wonít stop pulling out freakish victories in the Gran Matador PBA Fiesta Conference.

The Thunder, who have overcome all forms of adversities and trials in the tourney, did another escape act last night, beating the Ginebra San Miguel Kings, 107-103, despite playing almost the entire final half without a legitimate pointguard.

Coach Yeng Guiao and his chargers bucked the ejection of backcourt ace Jimwell Torion on a flagrant foul for the crucial win that forced a 1-1 deadlock in their best-of-five title playoff with the Kings.

The Thunder fell behind by eight, 76-84, following the ouster of Torion but regrouped in time, foiling the Kingsí bid to move in the threshold of a possible first crown in seven years.

"Itís a pity we lost Jimwell but we made it as a rallying point. Itís a tribute to the camaraderie of this team. We fought it out for Jimwell," said the Red Bull Barako mentor.

Torion was thrown out of the game with 6:45 left in the third period after hitting Torraye Braggs with an elbow on the back. The peppery Cebuano guard faces automatic suspension.

"Nothingís easy for us but we always find a way to win," said Guiao, optimistic of winning Game Three with or withour Torion.

With second-string guard Topex Robinson in foul-trouble situation, Guiao was forced to go to Junthy Valenzuela for playmaking, and the natural forward did a decent job.

Valenzuela even made 10 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter although it was Victor Thomas who delivered the telling blows on the Kings.

Thomas scored seven straight points that had the Thunder surging ahead, 103-99, with 1:25 left to play.

Crucial errors by Mark Caguioa off the bench in the ensuing plays hastened Ginebraís defeat.

"We have to play smart. Red Bullís experience came to play at endgame," said Ginebra coach Siot Tanquingcen.

With Guiao starting and concentrating with his core group in the first half this time, the Thunder dictated the tempo and took a 49-48 lead at the turn.

The Thunder actually enjoyed a 49-43 advantage with 1:27 left in the opening half but yielded five points in the closing seconds on a travelling violation by Davonn Harp and two defensive lapses by the team.

Limiting the Kings to one attempt per possession on a methodical defense early on, the Thunder opened an eight-point margin at 25-17 before settling for a 30-26 edge at the end of the first period.

The Kings rode high on the exploits of Rodney Santos and Torraye Braggs as they figured in a fiery exchange of baskets with the Thunder in the second canto.

Thomas led the Red Bull Barako attack and provided the highlight play in the second quarter on a thunderous slam off a perfect alley-oop pass from Jimwell Torion.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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