Belga throws weight around as E-Painters advance

The Philippine Star

Posted at Jan 23 2014 01:12 AM | Updated as of Jan 23 2014 04:47 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Seventh-ranked Globalport won't give up but second seed Rain or Shine won’t be denied as the Elasto Painters kept their winning form, fashioning out a 106-96 victory and claiming the first slot in the PLDT MyDSL PBA Philippine Cup at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City Wednesday night.

Sol Mercado of GlobalPort drives to the basket against the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters. Photo by Nuki Sabio, PBA Images.

Riding the momentum of a franchise record run dating back to last December, the Elasto Painters pulled away early and showed great composure under pressure at the finish as the Asian Coating ball club made the all-Filipino semis for the third straight time.

Globalport took the exit in the tourney, curiously sent to the door by former player Beau Belga.

The 6-foot-6 sweet-shooting center, who spent his amateur days with Harbour Centre (Globalport), helped Rain or Shine to a good start and came back late in the game to deliver practically everything for the Elasto Painters.

The Batang Pier had rallied to within two, 96-98, from 16 points down, 63-79, when Rain or Shine coach Yeng Guiao tapped in Belga with less than two minutes left to play.

He immediately connected with a booming trey then later buried three charities, aside from making a steal and getting a rebound in a big finish carrying the Elasto Painters back to the semis of this tourney where they wound up second to Talk n Text last year.

A team that has carved a niche in the league for its consistency, Rain or Shine is in the PBA semis for the fourth time in the last five conferences.

The only time the E-Painters missed the Final Four was in the 2013 Commissioner’s Cup where they bungled a twice-to-beat advantage against eventual second-placer Barangay Ginebra.

They made it sure not to experience the same thing against Globalport, but not without anxious moments.

“Globalport kept coming back. I thought they’d given up in the third quarter but we just couldn’t put them away,” said Rain or Shine coach Yeng Guiao.

“Credit goes to the guys. We kept our win streak but I don’t want to focus on that. We want to focus on the semis,” added Guiao whose team advanced to the semis on an eighth straight victory.

Living up to their trademark, the Elasto Painters pulled a solid effort together as they avenged their 88-90 upset by the Batang Pier in their elimination-round faceoff last Dec. 8.

Jervy Cruz had a near double-double job with 18 points and eight rebounds while Belga went 3-of-4 from the three-point land and ended up with 17 markers, six rebounds and four steals.

Larry Rodriguez, Gabe Norwood and Paul Lee also produced big numbers for the E-Painters who went 11-3 in the elims.

The E-Painters built a commanding lead early at 48-33 while rotating the ball well and hitting their outside shots.

And curiously, majority of their buckets from long range came from their big men.

Centers Belga and JR Quinahan combined for three treys right in the opening period where another frontline player Cruz scattered nine markers, cancelling out Terrence Romeo’s 10-point first-quarter output for Globalport.

Forward Larry Rodriguez hit his perimeter shots while rookie Raymond Almazan connected on a jump hook as Rain or Shine made it 48-33.

The Batang Pier, however, made good adjustments and rallied to within six, 50-56, on a run capped by back-to-back treys by Terrence Romeo.

A set shot by Cruz and a hang-time basket by Paul Lee as against a buzzer-beating eight-footer by Kelly Nabong had RoS closing the half at 60-52.

Globalport also ended the third period with a buzzer-beater courtesy of Richard Yee, and the Batang Pier kept the E-Painters within sight at 77-86.