THE hoop gods finally smiled on KIA as it stunned Rain or Shine, 98-94, on Saturday night at the Cuneta Astrodome to put an end to a long run of futility in the PBA.
Finally displaying the effort to make up for their lack of talent, the Picanto engaged the Elasto Painters in tight battle throughout, before enduring anxious moments down the stretch to pull off their first win in almost eight months – and first in the Philippine Cup in five games.
Glenn Khobuntin hit the biggest baskets at crunch time for the Picanto, who snapped a 16-game losing streak that dated back to May last year.
Kia also handed the E-Painters their third loss in five games as their victims failed to sustain their gains of a 120-99 rout of Phoenix last Wednesday.
“I’m relieved more than tired,” KIA coach Ricky Dandan said. “I’m very happy for our team. This will go a long way in our rebuilding of our ballclub.”
“Our confidence was all shot, but we really had no choice but to move forward and to look at the positives of those blowouts,” he added after his team lost by an average of 35.7 points in their last three games.
Khobuntin, returning from a one-game absence due to a minor foot injury, scored the Picanto’s last six points, four in back-to-back plays, the second on a tough fadeaway jumper off the spin that put his team up, 96-89, with a little less than two minutes to go.
The E-Painters made a last push, scoring five straight points to trim the gap to just two points, before Khobuntin caught a pass after Mark Yee won a jumpball battle with Gabe Norwood, then finished with a fastbreak layup with eight seconds left to seal the deal.
Rashawn McCarthy and Roider Cabrera paced the Picanto with 14 points each, Yee added 13 markers, while Khobuntin finished with 11 points, including eight in the final frame.
The Picanto prevailed even without the Eric Camson in the second half after the standout big man was ejected following a fight with Raymond Almazan late in the first half.
Rey Nambatac led the E-Painters with 12 points, 11 boards, two steals, and one assist in just 18 minutes off the bench that went for naught.
KIA 98 – McCarthy 14, Cabrera 14, Yee 13, Khobuntin 11, Camson 10, Celda 8, Galanza 8, Ababou 6, Sara 5, Tubid 5, Caperal 4
ROS 94 – Nambatac 12, Yap 11, Tiu 10, Ponferada 10, Ahanmisi 9, Belga 8, Norwood 8, Borboran 7, Maiquez 6, Almazan 6, Daquioag 4, King 2, Cruz 1, Matias 0, Trollano 0
Quarterscores: 13-18; 40-44: 72-68; 98-94