MANILA, February 17, 2006
(MALAYA) BY NOLI CORTEZ - (Game Today (Araneta Coliseum) 6:45 p.m. – Purefoods vs. Red Bull)

RED Bull has absorbed the initial fury of a Purefoods Chunkee player scorned.

If Giants coach Ryan Gregorio is to be believed, Kerby Raymundo is far from done and will again be the man to watch today in the continuing saga of the San Mig Coffee-PBA Fiesta Conference championship series at the Araneta Coliseum.

That is, if Enrico Villanueva and the other Bulls will allow themselves to be trampled upon by the rampaging Giants.

Raymundo and the entire Giants squad felt slighted when the Purefoods forward was edged out by Villanueva in what is believed to be the closest voting ever for the Best Player of the Conference award.

"He (Raymundo) said, ‘They can take all the individual awards. I’m gonna bring home the (championship) trophy,’" Gregorio related after the Giants notched a 96-91 win in Game 4 last Wednesday, hours after Villanueva was officially crowned as the conference’s best local player.

Probably emboldened by that win which tied the best-of-seven series at 2-2, Raymundo shouted, before a nationwide television audience, "Deep in my heart, I know who the real (best player) is." After that, he further vented his frustration by shedding tears at the Big Dome’s media room for the post-game interview.

When he had calmed down enough, more sedate words came out of Raymundo.

"I strongly believe ito na ang pinakamagandang conference ko sa career ko," he muttered as a sort of explanation for his outburst. "I thank God for always being there."

Raymundo armed himself with enough ammunition in disagreeing with the BPC voting results that saw him losing by a mere 226 points to Villanueva.

Villanueva was no slouch either, proving the trust heaped on him was not misplaced by coming up with a game-high 25 points to go with 14 rebounds, three assists, as many steals and two blocks.

The bulk of the former Ateneo star’s points came in the paint, defying the teeth of the Giants defense. Yet he was completely overshadowed by Raymundo in the endgame.

The 6-foot-6 Raymundo scored 12 of his 21 points in the fourth quarter, his amazing endgame show capped by two crucial defensive stops leading to scores down the stretch.

In the end, Raymundo also wound up with nine rebounds, three steals and a block, his cause helped along by Noy Castillo’s jumper from the left wing with a second left on the team’s shot clock after Red Bull pulled to within three on the previous play. Castillo’s basket sealed the final count.

That should not bode well for the Bulls who will try to take back whatever momentum they lost after winning the series’ first two games.

"It’s gonna be a war on Friday. Nobody’s gonna give an inch," predicted Gregorio.

Surprisingly, Bulls coach Yeng Guiao was not perturbed, or at least showed no signs of it.

"Ngayon pa lang sumasarap ang laban," said Guiao. "We’re going to come out harder on Friday. That’s a promise."

"We are ready, whatever it takes," Gregorio said.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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