PBA FIESTA: WILL FAT LADY SING FOR BULLS, PUREFOODS?
MANILA, February 1, 2006 (MALAYA) BY NOLI CORTEZ - Games Today (Araneta Coliseum) 4:40 p.m. Ė Air21 vs. Purefoods 7:35 p.m. Ė Red Bull vs. Ginebra
BEING on the threshold of a cherished dream does not guarantee anything.
This explains why coach Ryan Gregorio, whose Purefoods Chunkee team guns for the first final slot today against Air21 in the San Mig Coffee-PBA Fiesta Conference at the Araneta Coliseum, refuses to count out the Express.
"It ainít over until we get four wins so thereís no reason to celebrate," he said, echoing what is also in the mind of Red Bull counterpart Yeng Guiao whose team is also holds a 3-1 lead over Ginebra 3-1 in their own best-of-seven semifinals showdown.
Unlike the Bulls, whose import James Penny was slapped a one-game suspension and a P5,000 fine for incurring two technical fouls in Game Four last Sunday, the Giants have a clear shot at the coveted slot, primarily because import Marquin Chandler will be there.
Yet Gregorio remains wary.
"Weíll try to stay focused (in Game 5), the best we can be. We will not celebrate yet. Weíll only do that once weíre able to finish this," he said after his teamís 100-90 win in Game 4 last Sunday.
Gregorioís main concern is the fact that despite losing the first two games of the series the Express never lost heart and battled back via a cruising 101-87 win last Friday. In that game, Ren-Ren Ritualo shot a career-high 40 points and got plenty of all-around help.
For its part, Purefoods fared miserably on both ends of the floor, shooting 41 percent (36-of-86) from the field. Curiously, the Giants shot better from three-point range (10-of-20) than from the two-point area (39 percent.
Being drawn into an offensive battle anew is not one of Gregorioís plans.
"We cannot challenge Air21 to a shooting contest. We have to make the stops," he said. "We expect them (Express) to bounce back again, but this time weíll be ready."
The Purefoods-Air21 series has turned into a veritable war of attrition, with both teams trying to get into the minds of the other, resulting into a variety of hard fouls and technical fouls.
Gregorio would not have none of that, too.
"I donít mind physical basketball, I donít mind the hard fouls. But there are rules that should be followed," he said. "Itís nothing personal. I know itís not coming from the coaches, so itís just something we have to be ready for."
Chandler remains the focus of Air21ís defense despite the fact that he was limited to just 10 points last Sunday. Good thing a trio of Giants locals stepped up.
Noy Castillo dished out his most explosive performance in three years with 24 points, Marc Pingris wound up with a career-high 23 points and with 15 rebounds while Kerby Raymundo had another solid output with 24 points.
Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi
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