MANILA, February 11, 2006
(STAR) By Nelson Beltran - Red Bull was ready for every trick Purefoods Chunkee pulled off all night.

Making the right adjustments at the most opportune times, the Bulls cut the Giants down to size, 98-84, last night to take a commanding two-game-to-nil lead in their San Mig Coffee PBA Fiesta Cup best-of-seven title playoff at the Astrodome.

The Bulls squandered an early 10-point lead and fell behind by eight three times in the third quarter but came back to life and raged on in the last 14 minutes of play to take the emphatic victory that sent the team within two wins of the coveted crown.

Larry Fonacier, Lordy Tugade and James Penny combined for a 7-0 closing run in the third and the team poured on the heat in the payoff period to foil Purefoods’ bid to equalize in the series.

Red Bull will have a chance to move on the threshold of a first championship in four years in Game Three at 5:45 p.m. tomorrow in the same venue.

Purefoods coach Ryan Gregorio tried a lot of things but nothing seemed to work.

"For me, the positive indication how the series is going is that we’re forcing them to experiment on a lot of things. They’re trying with various combinations. It’s a good sign for us. It means we’re forcing them out of their comfort zone," said Red Bull coach Yeng Guiao.

"They’re struggling. For sure, they will take the risk of experimenting even more in Game Three. I just hope they still won’t find the right formula," Guiao added.

Lordy Tugade went one shy of his career-high 31 points while James Penny added 24, Enrico Villanueva with 16 and Larry Fonacier and Mick Pennisi 10 apiece.

Noy Castillo had an explosive start as he joined Purefoods’ starting unit for only the third time this conference. But Red Bull would made the right adjustment to counter this Purefoods’ experiment.

Red Bull countered Purefoods’ torrid shooting with a methodical passing game and connections from the perimeter to take control of the first half of play.

The Bulls, however, had to bank on a finishing 4-0 binge by Enrico Villanueva and James Penny to close the opening half at 46-43 after yielding an early double-digit lead, 35-25, on three-point bombs by Noy Castillo, James Yap and Marquin Chandler.

Regaining his spot in the Purefoods starting unit, Castillo responded to the challenge, going 3-of-5 from the three-point area in the first half. The entire Purefoods team outscored Red Bull, 21-6, from beyond the arc in the first 24 minutes of play.

Though starting with a quicker first five in Castillo, Peter Simon, Chandler, Kerby Raymundo and James Yap, the Giants couldn’t keep step with the Bulls’ fast start.

Tugade bettered his 14-point first-quarter output in Game One with 15 this time with his final twinner coming off a breakaway slam that gave Red Bull a 27-18 margin with 33 ticks left in the clock.

But Purefoods got away with a 7-0 run in the closing seconds with Jun Limpot beating the buzzer with a corner triple that trimmed the Bulls’ lead to 27-25 at the end of the opening quarter.

Behind their second stringers, the Bulls made another key run at the start of the second period to post the 35-25 margin.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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