MANILA, Philippines -- The young players of Rain or Shine got a baptism of fire on Wednesday night as they were given plenty of minutes by coach Chris Gavina against the Barangay Ginebra Gin Kings.
The Elasto Painters were playing without Rey Nambatac and Gabe Norwood, which allowed Gavina to play some of his younger players more minutes than usual. The likes of Santi Santillan, Andrei Caracut, Mike Nieto, Anton Asistio, and rookie Gian Mamuyac all got over 20 minutes of playing time.
"I told our young guys that this was such a great opportunity for them to take a man-up mentality. I told them, look at each other, right down the line. We have eight guys that's about one or two years into the league," Gavina said after the game.
"And I said, who else am I supposed to look at? Rey and Gabe aren't here. It's on you guys to take this challenge and accept it, and learn," he added.
The Elasto Painters showed their grit against Ginebra, repeatedly coming back from double-digit deficits to threaten the Gin Kings. But they were unable to get over the hump, as the fan favorites came away with a 90-85 triumph.
Nieto led Rain or Shine with 15 points, while Mamuyac had 10 points and Caracut scored 12. Santillan had nine points and seven rebounds, while Asistio struggled from the field and made just one of 10 field goals for three points.
The mixed results for his young players only showed how difficult it is to play in the league, said Gavina.
"The curve in the PBA is extremely difficult, especially when you're going up against Ginebra and their crowd, and just the atmosphere they bring overall," he said.
He noted that his young players are products of Ateneo de Manila University and De La Salle University, two of the top collegiate programs in the country. But the PBA -- and Ginebra -- still presents an entirely different challenge.
"These guys are coming from Ateneo and La Salle, but it's a whole different animal, dealing with the Ginebra crowd sometimes," he said. "And the level of talent you're going up against is a totally increased level."
"So it's just their ability to adapt, to be honest with you. They come from great programs, so I know they'll be willing to put in the work and learn from this experience," he added.
The loss to Ginebra dropped Rain or Shine to 1-2 in the conference; they have now lost back-to-back games since a season-opening triumph against Converge.
They will try to end their slump on Sunday against Phoenix Super LPG.