For the second straight time, Rain or Shine simply had enough poise and composure to outlast Petron Blaze down the stretch.
Turning up their attack on both ends a notch higher just in time, the Elasto Painters charged back to complete a stunning come-from-behind 103-94 victory against the Boosters, Wednesday night, and take a 2-0 lead in their PLDT-myDSL PBA Philippine Cup semifinals showdown at the Mall of Asia Arena.
After falling behind by as many as 16 points in the early goings and staring at an 80-89 deficit going to the final seven minutes of play, Rain or Shine tightened up its defensive bearings then unleashed a methodical 23-5 windup mainly behind the exploits of Paul Lee, Gabe Norwood, and rookie Raymond Almazan that left the fast-starting Petron Blaze crew stunned.
It was the second straight victory in a span of three days for the Painters, who took the opener of their best-of-seven series with a 103-95 victory.
Gunner Jeff Chan, despite a slow start, tallied a team-high 20 points while four other teammates, including Lee and Almazan, added at least 11 markers for Rain or Shine, which outscored Petron Blaze 36-16 in the payoff canto.
Towering center June Mar Fajardo, who got the full brunt of the Painters’ pesky defense throughout, also scattered 20 points and, including a lay-up that served as the Boosters’ lone made field goal in the crunch and pulled them within 93-95 with 2:42 remaining.
Unfortunately, Petron Blaze continued to fire bricks, even missing at least 10 field goals in the final six minutes, while repeatedly sending Rain or Shine to the free throw line that sealed the deal.
Before the Painters seized control, it was the Boosters who dictated the tempo majority of the match.
With Fajardo throwing his full weight around the paint, the Boosters seized immediate control before the likes of reserve guards Chris Ross and Paolo Hubalde joined the fray, enabling them to build a big 36-20 lead.
Then things started to get chippy between the two squads, with Fajardo and backup center Yousef Taha figuring in several physical altercations against their Painters counterparts like burly center Beau Belga plus rookies Raymond Almazan and Jeric Teng.
While the Boosters seemed to have lost their focus, the Painters readily pounced on as Lee and Chan took turns in delivering big buckets that allowed them to pull within 46-49 at the break.
The Main Man: Rain or Shine coach Yeng Guiao took a big risk in fielding rookie Raymond Almazan in the most crucial stage and it paid big dividends.
Subbing in for recovering center JR Quinahan, the lanky slotman emerged as one of the catalysts in the Painters’ strong finishing kick, coming through with 10 of his 15 points while overshadowing Petron’s top guns Arwind Santos and June Mar Fajardo.
Honorable Mentions: Also giving the Painters a much needed lift in the pivotal period were athletic wingman Gabe Norwood, Paul Lee, and Jeff Chan, who took turns in canning the needed points.
Even burly center Beau Belga deserved to be commended for his successful job on slowing down Fajardo and taking him out of his usual focus.
Game Turning Point: Trailing by just 93-96, the Boosters had the chance to take the upperhand but failed to pounce on as they repeatedly took three-point attempts, the last seeing Lutz missing his try off Fajardo’s offensive rebound before fouling RoS guard Paul Lee who made it a five-point game heading into the last 72 seconds.
Petron then continued to struggle from the field as Rain or Shine methodically wrapped things up with ease.
He Said It:
Rain or Shine coach Yeng Guiao: “We just carved up a hard win today. For a while, I thought it was a lost game but our guys did not give up. It’s a testament of the guys' desire to win and their mental toughness. They just did not give up. It was a physical game but that is really our game. We didn’t get the referees’ calls for the most part but I felt that Petron escaped with a lot of physical contact. Two-and-oh is a good place to be at this point but we can't celebrate, we need two more wins. They did a good job on our breaks. They were trying to play physical and June Mar really is the focal point of their offense and we have to play physical ourselves. There are three to four guys on him. You have to be mentally into it. It’s more natural for us. Raymond (Almazan) played like a veteran. He looked like he was 250 pounds.”
RAIN OR SHINE 103 - Chan 20, Almazan 15, Lee 15, Belga 11, Norwood 11, Arana 8, Tang 5, Quinahan 4, Cruz 4, Nuyles 4, Rodriguez 4, Teng 2, Tiu 0, Ibanes 0.
PETRON 94 - Fajardo 20, Cabagnot 17, Lassiter 14, Santos 12, Lutz 7, Kramer 6, Hubalde 6, Ross 6, Tubid 4, Taha 2.
Quarter scores: 18-32, 46-49, 67-78, 103-94