MANILA, February 7, 2006
(MALAYA) BY NOLI CORTEZ - Games Tomorrow (Araneta Coliseum) 4:40 p.m. – Air21 vs. Ginebra 7:35 p.m. – Purefoods vs. Red Bull

AFTER hurdling the grueling semifinals, some people may think the easy part now lies ahead for Purefoods Chunkee and Red Bull.

Red Bull coach Yeng Guiao and Purefoods counterpart Ryan Gregorio don’t think so, insisting a tougher battle lies ahead.

"The worse is far from over for us," Guiao stressed yesterday during a pre-finals media briefing of the PBA Fiesta Conference at the Barrio Fiesta on UN Avenue in Manila.

"Anyone who thinks we’ve got the job already done is wrong, terribly wrong," Gregorio concurred. "There’s no reason for celebration just yet. Apat na panalo pa ang kailangan."

Both coaches agree those wins will not come cheap in the best-of-seven title series that starts tomorrow, more so for the Bulls squad that was forced to take the full route before finally beating Ginebra in their race-to-four semifinals pairing just last Sunday.

"We did not practice today, but we have to make adjustments in defense," said Guiao. "That’s tougher for us, re-orienting our defense in just one day’s time."

Gregorio, despite the fact that the Giants wrapped up their best-of-seven series against Air21 last Friday, didn’t agree that his charges will have fresher legs in Game 1.

"We have had additional pressure since the Express have built up a reputation as giant-killers by taking out (defending champion) San Miguel Beer (in the wildcard phase) and Talk N Text (in the quarterfinals). Eh kami ang talagang Giants," related Gregorio.

"Only when we beat them (Express) did the pressure ease off on us a bit, but only for a while. Red Bull is a very good team and a very tough one at that."

Gregorio, who won his first title as a rookie coach in the 2002 Governors Cup, the same year Guiao’s Red Bull retained its Commissioner’s Cup title, claimed experience should play a factor.

"Marami sa mga players ko baka ma-overcome ng excitement of being in the finals," said Gregorio, who only has Kerby Raymundo, Roger Yap and Richard Yee as remnants of that championship team.

For their part, the Bulls still have franchise originals Jimwell Torion, Junthy Valenzuela, Mick Pennisi and Lordy Tugade in their roster. Guiao, however, said there is no point in putting too much emphasis on championship experience.

"Experience may have some effect, but it will not decide the series. Getting into the finals is always like the first time," said Guiao, owner of four league titles. "Besides, coach Ryan is very capable. For his team to get this far only means he’s been doing something right."

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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