RAIN or Shine continues to turn to its cohesive local crew as it makes its final playoff push in the PBA Governors’ Cup on Sunday against NLEX at the Mall of Asia Arena.
The Elasto Painters had hoped that making an import change would be the solution to their up-and-down campaign in the season-ending tournament, replacing Dior Lowhorn with Jason Forte.
But coach Yeng Guiao is convinced his team plays better without an import on the floor – judging from Forte’s debut on Friday night when the E-Painters snapped a two-game skid and improved to a 4-4 win-loss record with a 103-88 rout of Mahindra.
“Actually, hindi namin makuha yung chemistry namin (with an import) eh. Mas maganda talaga laro namin (with an) all-Filipino (lineup) eh,” Guiao admitted. “Whether it was with Lowhorn or Forte, it’s just the familiarity of the guys, the system, the cohesion, it’s there all-Filipino.”
All but 10 of the E-Painters’ 37 field-goal conversions versus the Enforcer were assisted as five locals, led by Raymond Almazan and Beau Belga, ended up scoring in double figures.
“But we have to jell with an import whether we like it or not,” Guiao continued. “And Forte is the import that we have right now. I guess that’s the challenge for us: to jell him as soon as we can.”
The E-Painters hope Forte, who tallied 10 points – missing all but one of his eight free-throw attempts – six boards, one assist, and one block in less than 17 minutes off the bench against the Enforcer in his debut, hopes he has has adjusted better as he plays his second game in three days.
“We’re still expecting that most of the work will be done by the all-Filipino crew,” Guiao said ahead of the 4:30 p.m. matchup against the Road Warriors, who seek to snap their own two-game losing streak and improve their 3-5 slate.
Guiao, though, expects Forte to thrive better in a running game as the E-Painters try to outrun the Road Warriors, who are coming off a tough four-point overtime loss to Phoenix last week.
“As long as we’re able to keep the pace of the game fast, I guess that’s our best chance of winning,” the champion coach said. “At the same time, our import is built for that: he can run with us, he can finish strong towards the basket.”
Meralco, running fifth at 5-4, seeks to clinch a playoff berth as it faces cellar-dwelling Star at 6:45 p.m.