MANILA, March 14, 2005 
(STAR) By Nelson Beltran  -  Newly-hired Red Bull Barako assistant coach Gelacio "Gee" Abanilla got his baptism of fire in the Philippine Basketball Association last night, and the former La Salle player rose to the challenge when head coach Yeng Guiao was ejected from the game due to technical fouls.

Abanilla kept the Thunder intact under gnawing pressure in the stretch and the team went on to stop the San Miguel Beermen on their tracks, pulling off a morale-boosting 94-90 win in the 2005 Gran Matador PBA Fiesta Conference at the Araneta Coliseum.

"Pwede na talaga iyan dahil lutong-luto na naman iyan as assistant coach," said Guiao of Abanilla, long-time assistant to the Pumarens —Derrick at Tanduay, Purefoods and FedEx and Franz at La Salle and ICTSI — before his entry to the Red Bull team.

"This (the victory) is a result of our beefing up of our coaching staff. Gee is a good addition to the team," added Guiao, who was ejected from the game with 5:10 left in the third quarter for vehemently arguing a non-call on Enrico Villanueva’s jumper against a defending Chris Burgess.

Red Bull was holding a precarious 60-56 lead on Guiao’s exit, and the Thunder were able to protect it to the finish by responding well to the calls of Abanilla.

The Thunder played as one cohesive unit in negating Burgess’ 34-point and 25-rebound performance in the game marked by two other technical fouls called on Burgess himself in the first half and on San Miguel assistant coach Art dela Cruz early in the fourth quarter.

"Burgess dominated the game. Sa amin walang nag-excel nang husto, pero tulong-tulong kami sa laro and that carried us through," said Guiao.

"This is our way of getting back from a loss to FedEx (Friday). We proved to ourselves that we’re on the right track in our preparation (for the hard grind)," Guiao added.

Darlon Johnson and Cyrus Baguio combined for 30 points and nailed key charities in the closing seconds in clinching the team’s second win in three starts.

Johnson drove the final nail on San Miguel’s coffin on two free throws, making it 93-90 with time down to 14 seconds.

Falling behind by as many as 11 in the first half, San Miguel actually surged ahead at 88-87 entering the final minute on a fiery attack by Burgess and Nic Belasco.

But Johnson and Baguio bailed the Thunder out of trouble on their crucial charities.

San Miguel took a longer time than expected in pouncing on the ouster of Guiao, and it was only in the fourth period that the Beermen managed to tie the count at 74 on a Dondon Hontiveros trey with still 10:17 left.

Then the Barakos started clamping down hard on defense, holding their opponents scoreless for a four-minute stretch to take an 80-74 spread.

Relievers Ryan Bernardo and Nelson Asaytono scored four points each in that surge that was capped by the latter’s turnaround, fallaway jumper with 9:49 to go in the period.

Talk n Text stayed unscathed in two games, blasting Sta. Lucia Realty, 97-75, in a follow-up on its 97-88 demolition of Shell in Jakarta, Indonesia last week.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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