KINGS  SEEK  ROYAL  ENDING  TONIGHT

MANILA, July 7, 2004
 
(STAR)
By Nelson Beltran  -  For Barangay Ginebra, tonight could be its return to the leagueís Promised Land, providing a welcome twist to the corporate side of the franchise with the company celebrating its 170th anniversary next month.

For Red Bull Barako, it could be part of its magical ride in the tourney, giving the team a shot at completing a championship conquest like no other.

The Kings go for the jugular while the Thunder seek to force a winner-take-all setto as they clash in Game Four of their Gran Matador PBA Fiesta Conference best-of-five title playoff at the Araneta Coliseum today.

Gametime is at 6:30 p.m. with the two teams set to play before another capacity crowd at the Big Dome. Ring side and lower box tickets have been sold out as early as Monday.

Coach Siot Tanquingcen and his Kings are expecting a tough challenge from the Thunder but have promised to go all out to finish off their rivals, end their title drought and offer the crown as their gift to the companyís grand celebration of its founding anniversary.

"Weíre determined to win the championship para mayroon kaming share sa anniversary celebration ng kumpanya. If ever, this would be our gift to our valued consumers," said Ginebra team manager Allan Caidic.

Tanquingcen is aware of Red Bullís saga in the tourney and maintained they couldnít afford to relax if they were to win the teamís first title since the 1997 All-Filipino Conference.

"Itís good to take 2-1 lead but if we relax, this crucial advantage would go for naught," said Tanquingcen, now on the verge of joining an elite club of coaches who won a title right in their first year in the league.

But Red Bull Barako coach Yeng Guiao believed they could thwart the Kings and write a storybook ending to the PBA transition tourney.

"Weíve been the comeback kid in this tournament. Weíve been through a lot of adversities and trials and weíre just back in familiar situations. We have to carve it out again," said Guiao.

The Thunder have gone through some roller-coaster ride in the touirnamen . They survived five import changes, a classic triple-overtime game versus Purefoods in the elims, a 25-point deficit against Shell in a wildcard knockout battle, the ouster on technical fouls by Guiao versus San Miguel Beer in the quarterfinals and a 0-1 hole versus Coca-Cola in a best-of-three semis showdown.

"It might just be like that all the way to the finish for us," said Red Bull Barako team manager Tony Chua. "It could be a championship through the backdoor."

Red Bull Barako is expected to brandish its old game with Jimwell Torion returning from a one-game suspension for his flagrant foul on Ginebra import Torraye Braggs in Game Two Friday.

"Red Bull could only get better on the return of Torion but I expect Jayjay (Helterbrand), Mark (Caguioa) and Rodney (Santos) to do their jobs," said Tanquingcen.

Guiao, meanwhile, said they did miss the services of Torion in Game Three but claimed spotty officiating was the big factor in that contest.

"We didnít get our game going because we got frustrated with the calls that just wonít go our way. That affected our game a lot," Guiao said. "We felt itís been going on since Game Two."

But in terms of fouls called, the stats in Game Three showed Ginebra getting more with 23 as against Red Bullís 20.

Before todayís game, the Thunder still lead the Kings, 3-2, in their head-to-head matches in the conference and, 9-3, dating back to the 2002 Commissionerís Cup. Itís 15-6 for Red Bull overall.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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