RAIN or Shine came through in the face of adversity, coming from behind to beat San Miguel Beer, 98-94, and draw first blood in their PBA Commissioner’s Cup semifinal series on Sunday at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
The Elasto Painters overhauled an early 18-point deficit despite their import Pierre Henderson-Niles getting into foul trouble and SMB counterpart Tyler Wilkerson wreaking havoc early on.
Jeff Chan hit the go-ahead three-pointer, while Maverick Ahanmisi capped his career-high 23 points with the insurance free throws to lead the E-Painters, who prevailed with Henderson-Niles tallying just 13 points and nine boards against five fouls in 21 minutes.
“It’s just one of those comebacks that will linger in your memory,” E-Painters coach Yeng Guiao said. “I almost gave up on the guys, but the guys did not give up on me.”
“They proved their coach wrong,” he added. “As good as their import and June Mar were playing, we pulled a win. That’s a great testament to the character of this team.”
It was a different start for the E-Painters this time after the Beermen took the opener – and eventually the series – in their last two Final Four encounters.
Game Two of his best-of-five series is on Tuesday also at the Big Dome.
Wilkerson, the Best Import race frontrunner, registered half of his 40 points in the first quarter, where the Beermen established a 29-11 lead, while Fajardo returned to top form by tallying 23 points, 13 boards, three assists, two blocks, and two steals.
But Ahanmisi, Chan, Jericho Cruz finally found their marks from long range after firing blanks early to author the comeback.
Ahanmisi reset his career-high by three points despite going scoreless in the first quarter.
ROS 98 – Ahanmisi 23, Henderson-Niles 13, Cruz 11, Chan 10, Almazan 8, Lee 8, Norwood 8, Quinahan 7, Belga 4, Ponferada 4, Tiu 2, Ibanes 0, Nimes 0
SMB 94 – Wilkerson 40, Fajardo 23, Cabagnot 15, Ross 7, Lassiter 3, Santos 3, Tubid 3, Espinas 0, Lutz 0
Quarterscores: 17-33, 40-50, 72-75, 98-94