RAIN or Shine’s team cohesion just proved no match to Ginebra’s vaunted never-say die spirit.
The Kings survived the Elasto Painters’ barrage of three-pointers in the fourth quarter to pull off a thrilling 81-79 win in their do-or-die encounter on Monday night and advance to the semifinals of the PBA Commissioner’s Cup.
Import Vernon Macklin bucked an abdominal strain and a 47 percent free throw shooting clip by sinking two pressure-packed foul shots in the final 11 seconds to put the Kings on top, 81-79, sending Ginebra fans that comprise the majority in a crowd of 12,764 at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum in wild frenzy.
The Painters had four chances to turn the tables around but missed on all opportunities.
Jeff Chan’s driving basket was blocked by Macklin, Paul Lee bungled a corner three-pointer, and Chan completely and inexplicably missed an open follow-up shot.
When Gabe Norwood’s final tip in came up short, the Kings jumped for joy, run to center court and celebrated as coach Alfrancis Chua raised both arms in triumph at the sidelines.
“They underestimated us,” a jubilant Chua said afterwards. “They underestimated our players because pilay-pilay na kami, but nakalimutan nila i-anticipate `yung puso ng mga bata.”
"Mahina `yung team, tapos may injury pa, but they forgot it’s a never-say-die team."
Ginebra became the first seventh-seeded team to overhaul a twice-to-beat drawback against a second-seeded team since Talk `N Text did the feat against Sta. Lucia in the 2002 Commissioner’s Cup.
The Kings are likewise the ninth team to complete a comeback from a twice-to-beat barrier since the format was institutionalized in 1996.
The league’s most popular team will now take on Talk `N Text next in a best-of-five semifinal series.
Macklin topscored for the Kings with 24 points, 16 rebounds, and eight assists, while Chris Ellis and Kerby Raymundo had 13 each. Mac Baracael added 10 to more than make up for LA Tenorio’s shooting woes as Ginebra’s starting point guard shot 1-of-12 from the field.
Chris Tiu paced the Elasto Painters with 15 points while Paul Lee added 14 for Rain or Shine, which failed to make the semifinals after two straight Finals stints.
A three-pointer by Lee sparked a huge fourth-quarter run by the Elasto Painters that saw the team sink four triples in succession, including back-to-back hits by the foul-troubled Bruno Sundov.
Lee scored on a running jumper at the 2:37 mark to give Rain or Shine a 79-76 lead before Eilis split his free throws and Macklin scored on a follow up to tie the game at 79-all in the final 52 seconds that set the stage for the exciting finish.
“Actually nagawa nila `yung play. Ang problema di nila na-shoot, Siguro hindi para sa kanila talaga,” Chua said later of Rain or Shine.
Ginebra (81) – Macklin 24, Ellis 13, Raymundo 13, Baracael 10, Helterbrand 9, Hatfield 6, Urbiztondo 3, Tenorio 2, Taha 1.
Rain or Shine (79) – Tiu 15, Lee 14, Sundov 12, Cruz 10, Chan 9, Belga 5, Norwood 4, Matias 3, Arana 3, Rodriguez 2, Quinahan 2, Ibanes 0.
Quarterscores: 22-23; 44-41; 63-61; 81-79.