An inspired Rain or Shine team rely on a furious fourth-quarter run to pull the oxygen out of powerhouse Petron Blaze Boosters, 97-88, and returned to the PLDT myDSL-PBA Philippine Cup Finals on Friday night at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The Elasto Painters played minus suspended coach Yeng Guiao, but not even that could prevent them from clinching the best-of-seven semifinals series, 4-1, and a berth in the All-Filipino title series for the second straight season.
The Finals stint is also the third championship stint for the Asian Coating franchise over the last five conferences.
Bruising big man Beau Belga hold his ground against the towering Junemar Fajardo, finishing with a team-high 18 points, including a completed and- 1 off a foul by Chris Lutz that sealed a 10-0 Rain or Shine run and give the team an 89-80 lead. He also added nine rebounds and three assists, and dedicated the game to Guiao.
“Para sa ‘yo to Coach. Mahal ka namin, kaya kami naglalaro ng ganito,” said Belga.
“The players really wanted to win the game today,” said Rain or Shine assistant coach Caloy Garcia, who called the shots in place of Guiao.
“The system is the system, kahit sino humawak, credit still goes to Coach Yeng.”
The searing run proved to be the backbreaker for the Boosters, who appeared to have lost their confidence after missing their last five three-point attempts and allowed the Elasto Painters to seal the Game Five win.
Petron is always playing like this in the series, leading early but collapses in the end.
“Making it in the Finals especially without coach Yeng, I mean, the boys really wanted to win the game today,” reiterated Garcia.
The fiery coach Yeng, who watched from his home in Pampanga, was in communication with Garcia at halftime.
Garcia revealed his last instruction from Guiao during halftime was to minimize the team’s turnovers in the second half and keep attacking the basket for possible free throw attempts.
“Pinaalala lang sa amin ni coach Yeng nung halftime ang mga flaws namin sa laro. Sabi ko, come the second half, we have to be aggressive on defense,” explained the soft-spoken Garcia.
Petron, fighting to stay alive, controlled the early part of the game, opening up double-digit leads in the first half. But Rain or Shine remained poised, staying within striking distance the whole time.
The Boosters were still up by six points, 69-63, late in the third period, before the Elasto Painters unleashed an 11-0 rally to finally grab the upperhand.
The game remained a neck-to-neck with Petron still leading, 80-79, on a jumper by Fajardo.
But Rain or Shine rattled off the next 10 points of the game to take an 89-80 spread. That proved to be the knockout punch as the Boosters, overwhelmed by the Elasto Painters’ depth, could not muster enough energy to put together a rally.
The second Philippine Cup Finals stint gives Rain or Shine an opportunity to complete an unfinished business after it was easily swept (0-4) by Talk ‘N Text during their championship tussle last season.
Arwind Santos, the league’s reigning MVP, led the Boosters with 20 points and 13 rebounds, while Marcio Lassiter added 18.
Fajardo finished with 16 points, but half of his output came from free throws as Belga and JR Quinahan alternated in sending him to the foul line.
RAIN OR SHINE (97) -- Belga 18, Chan 17, Lee 16, Arana 10, Norwood 9, Rodriguez 8, Cruz 6, Quinahan 5, Tang 4, Almazan 2, Nuyles 2, Tiu 0, Teng 0, Ibanes 0.