RAIN or Shine gifted Air21 safe passage to the quarterfinals as it ended the hopes of Barako Bull with a 116-101 victory to complete the PBA Philippine Cup playoffs cast on Friday night at the MOA Arena.
The Elasto Painters drew energy from Jervy Cruz and seldom-used guard Jonathan Uyloan, who finished with 23 and 18 points, respectively, as they quickly turned the game into a ghastly rout.
The game was so one-sided Rain or Shine didn't even miss head coach Yeng Guiao, who arrived late in the third period after being stuck in traffic heading to the MOA Arena and let assistant Caloy Garcia finish what he started.
“Umuwi lang ako (in Pampanga) … traffic pa rin talaga. I left Pampanga around 1:30 p.m. but got stuck for four hours going to the game. But before the game, I called up coach Caloy. I just gave him very general instructions. I know he can coach anyway, the game plan is well in place,” explained Guiao after the game.
Barako Bull needed a win to forge a playoff with Air21 for the eighth and last spot in the playoffs. Instead it joined Globalport Batang Pier in an early Christian vacation after closing the Philippine Cup with a 4-10 record.
Barako Bull’s loss allowed Air21 (5-9) to clinch the No. 8 spot and earn the right to face top-seed Talk ‘N Text, which holds a twice-to-beat advantage in the knockout round.
Barako Bull interim coach Bong Ramos tried his best to rally his team but got little response as the Energy Cola fell behind by as many as 71-98 with about nine minutes left in the game.
“The nice thing about this team, everybody stepped up. Wala gaanong pressure. We just played hard … What coach Yeng wanted today was for us to go out with the win, then just try to run,” added Garcia, whose team had six players scoring in double figures.
Reigning Rookie of the Year awardee Paul Lee played his first game this season, finishing with 16 points, six assists and four rebounds in 20 minutes of action. The former UE Red Warrior hardly showed rust in his first game since last season’s Governors Cup Finals, which saw him dislocate his left shoulder.
Guiao said seeing Lee back in harness gave the team more confidence heading into the playoffs.
“We’re really very happy with the result. Our objective is to gain back the momentum after the losses, going to the quarterfinals. At the same time, be able also to play Paul Lee and have him get a feel of the game. True enough it’s a good sign for us with the way he played tonight. He’s gonna be adding a new dimension to the team going into the quarterfinals,” said Guiao.
Rain or Shine (116) - Cruz 23, Uyloan 18, Lee 16, Chan 11, Quinahan 11, Belga 10, Tiu 8, Norwood 8, Rodriguez 4, Arana 4, Jaime 3, Matias 0, Tang 0
Barako Bull (101) -Seigle 21, Tubid 17, Yap 16, Kramer 15, Cruz 13, Anthony 11, Marcelo 8, Najorda 0, Pennisi 0
Quarterscores: 32-19, 54-47, 86-66, 116-101