MANILA, Philippines - Playing as if its destiny is “painted” in the stars, Rain or Shine finally ended the long lean years.
The Elasto Painters nailed its first-ever championship berth since going big league in 2006, shedding their label as hard-luck crew with a 92-82 victory over the B-Meg Llamados in their duel for the coveted slot in the PBA Governors Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum last night.
Flashing the form that enabled the team to dominate the elims, the Painters finally showed poise and maturity, pouring it on in the middle quarters to hold off the fighting Llamados.
“We’re like kids, very happy with this achievement,” said coach Yeng Guiao after finally giving the Asian Coatings Inc. franchise a crack at a PBA crown.
“We feel relieved. We’d been waiting for this for the past six years. We tried to get it in the last all-Filipino (conference) but we’re beaten in Game Seven of the semis. I believed, however, that that motivated the players to give it all today,” said co-team owner Raymond Yu.
Yu also said later he’s confident the players would go all-out since it’s the birthday of co-team owner Terry Que.
“I’m so happy. It feels great to finally have this breakthrough in the PBA,” said Que, who turned 62.
Jeff Chan fired three triples and wound up with a game-high 25 points while Jamelle Cornley logged 16 points and the same number of rebounds, leading the Elasto Painters to this breakthrough victory.
Ronjay Buenafe also put in double-digit output with Jervy Cruz, Paul Lee, Gabe Norwood and JR Quinahan playing key roles as the Elasto Painters checked a two-game slide and topped the carryover semifinals with a 10-4 win-loss record.
The Llamados came out flat, trailed by as many as 23 at one instance and went on to settle for a 9-5 card.
Barangay Ginebra caught up with B-Meg at second place in beating out Talk n Text, 73-71, in a fierce battle in the nightcap.
The Kings and the Llamados clash in a sudden death for the second finals seat at 6:45 p.m. tomorrow.
The Texters lost their last game under coach Chot Reyes, winding up fourth in the season-ending tourney.
Coach Norman Black is to take over from Reyes at Talk n Text starting next season as the latter concentrates in preparing Smart Gilas Pilipinas for the 2013 FIBA Asia Championship.
“We got them on their bad night. It was a big break for us,” said Guiao.
“Even then, I felt we weren’t safe even with our 23-point lead. This (B-Meg) team can explode. Yancy de Ocampo and Marc Pingris have been playing well in the last few games and their import (Marcus Blakely) is just fantastic,” Guiao added.
The Llamados, however, struggled till the end, and the Elasto Painters went on to surpass their previous best finish of fourth place (2009 Fiesta Conference and 2011-12 Philippine Cup).
This will be the first finals for all the Rain or Shine players, including Jireh Ibanes, the lone remaining player from the original (Welcoat) team.
Gaining his 10th finals appearance, Guiao will be chasing a sixth PBA championship. He won titles with Sunkist and Red Bull.
“There’s nothing more satisfying than to make the finals with a dedicated team,” said Guiao.
“It’s very satisfying for the reason that all the finals and all the championships I’ve been with are with teams like this. We’re not giants but we fight,” Guiao also said.
Guiao steered Rain or Shine to the finals in his fifth conference with the team. The finals had been elusive for the team under coaches Leo Austria and Caloy Garcia.
The Elasto Painters fought with determination, pummeling the Llamados in the first three quarters then hung tough in the face of B-Meg’s chase in the final canto.
Chan fired away 10 points in the second quarter as the Elasto Painters made a key run and opened their first huge lead at 48-31.
Rain or Shine 92 – Chan 25, Cornley 16, Buenafe 11, Cruz 9, Lee 8, Norwood 7, Belga 7, Quinahan 7, Ibañes 2, Tang 0, Araña 0.
B-Meg 82 – Blakely 18, Yap 12, Villanueva 11, Barroca 10, Simon 9, Pingris 8, De Ocampo 6, Gaco 4, Reavis 4, Urbiztondo 0.
Quarterscores: 23-20, 49-41, 74-58, 92-82
Ginebra 73 – Caguioa 18, Raymundo 15, Bozeman 14, Cortez 11, Maierhofer 4, Mamaril 4, Hatfield 4, W. Wilson 2, Villanueva 1, Ababou 0, Helterbrand 0.
Talk n Text 71 – Harris 25, Reyes 8, De Ocampo 8, Castro 7, Alapag 7, Peek 7, Williams 3, Aguilar 2, Fonacier 2, Carey 2, Aban 0.
Quarterscores: 27-21, 42-40, 61-59, 73-71