MANILA, March 8, 2006
(MANILA TIMES) By Joel Orellana, Reporter (Games today (Araneta Coliseum) 4:40 p.m.–Sta. Lucia vs. Purefoods 7:35 p.m.–Ginebra vs. Talk ‘N Text)

BARANGAY Ginebra begins its quest of defending the All-Filipino crown when it faces Talk ’N Text in the main game of the 2006 Gran Matador Philippine Basketball Association Philippine Cup Wednesday at the Araneta Coliseum.

The Kings and the Phone Pals meet at 7:35 p.m. after the opening match between Sta. Lucia Realty and Purefoods Chunkee at 4:40 p.m.

Ginebra faces the big task of becoming the first team to defend an All-Filipino title since the Great Taste squad did the trick in the 1984 and 1985 seasons under legendary coach Baby Dalupan.

Kings head coach Siot Tanquingcen hardly changed his roster despite two of his key players—Andy Seigle (ACL) and Jayjay Helterbrand (fractured left shin)—sidelined due to injuries.

“It will be tough, and Mark [Caguioa] is still not in 100 percent because of his hamstring injury. But I’m confident my players will be up to the challenge,” said Tan-quingcen, whose wards lost to Red Bull in a classic Game 7 in the semifinals of the Fiesta Conference.

Egay Echavez was elevated to the regular roster to take the spot of Helterbrand, while Rommel Adducul and Eric Menk are expected to carry much of the load of the Kings’ offense.

Tanquingcen also hopes that Ervin Sotto and rookie Mike Holper can provide quality minutes to ease the burden on Menk and Adducul, while veteran Rodney Santos and rookie Mark Macapagal can take the spot of Caguioa.

Ginebra will be meeting a squad that made the most significant changes during the midseason, with the Manny V. Pangilinan franchise taking Derrick Pumaren as its new head coach after the resignation of Joel Banal.

Immediately after signing a two-year pact with the Phone Pals, Pumaren acquired Poch Juinio from Coke and traded Mark Telan to Air21 for John Ferriols. They also signed free agents Chris Cantonjos and Anton Villoria.

Pumaren will be reunited once more with 1995 Most Valuable Player Vergel Meneses, who at age 37 is making a comeback after sitting out one conference.

“I’m surprised that he’s in great shape. He’s really determined to make a comeback,” said Pumaren, who is on his second tour of duty with Talk ’N Text.

“The key in our campaign will be our defense. The offense will always be there, but we need to put more emphasis on our defense to be competitive again,” Pumaren added.

In the first game, the Giants, the runner-up in the Fiesta Conference, collide with the Realtors, deemed as the dark horse of the tournament.

Forward Rey Evangelista, the 12-year veteran, is back for Purefoods after sitting out the previous tournament because of an injury, while coach Ryan Gregorio tapped in Eugene Tejada to have an extra body inside the lane after losing Jondan Salvador to an ACL injury.

Sta. Lucia, swept by Alaska in the wildcard phase in the Fiesta Conference, boosted its backcourt by elevating veteran guard Gilbert Demape to lineup and putting Ronald Cuan on the reserve list.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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