Rain or Shine's Gabe Norwood and Jireh Ibanez go for the loose ball against Petron center JunMar Fajardo (L) in their PBA Philippine Cup semi-finals game. Photo by Nuki Sabio, PBA Images.
MANILA, Philippines - Rain or Shine bucked the loss of ace guard Paul Lee to injury and coach Yeng Guiao to ejection as the Elasto Painters squeezed out a tough 88-83 victory over Petron Blaze to move within a win from making a return stint to the PBA Philippine Cup Finals at the Smart Araneta Coliseum last night.
The Elasto Painters once again showed their big fighting heart and mental toughness, defying the odds in turning back the Boosters and taking the pivotal 3-1 lead in their side of the best-of-seven semifinal series.
Jeff Chan and Beau Belga delivered clutch baskets and the rest of the fierce-fighting RoS team put up a lockdown defense to hold the Boosters to a single point in the last six minutes of the contest.
Junmar Fajardo came through with a career-best 27 points and a game-high 17 rebounds but lost steam and was shackled down by the E-Painters down the stretch.
Rain or Shine thus gained a big two-game advantage over Petron in the series, giving the E-Painters three cracks at a second straight appearance in the all-Filipino finals.
“The guys just didn’t give up. They won this game on their own. I have nothing to do in this victory,” said Guiao.
“They lost Paul. They lost me. But they kept their fighting hearts with them. We beat them against all the odds,” he added.
Lee went down with a badly sprained left ankle midway through the second period while Guiao was again tossed out of the game for incurring a second technical foul with 6:15 left in the third and the E-Painters trailing, 54-60.
But Elasto Painters stayed together and played like men on a mission to pull through with the big win.
“In the first half, 24 free throws were awarded Petron. I thought there were lots of bad calls. Any team made up of softer materials would’ve folded up. It’s a testimony to the character of the guys,” said Guiao.
“We got closer to our desired destiny, but it’s not a guarantee. We still have to carve out another win, and it would be more difficult the next time,” Guiao added.
Petron opened the game with a 16-6 salvo and held off RoS’ second group charge as the Boosters took the half at 50-48.
JR Quinahan and Lee came out firing, unloading three straight treys to highlight an attack that pushed the Elasto Painters up front, 33-28, after the first period.
The Boosters, however, recovered in the second quarter, sending the E-Painters to early penalty situation and cashing in on it with 10-of-18 charities.