BRUNO Sundov found himself in foul trouble again, but the Rain or Shine locals stepped up in his absence and collectively worked together to snap Air21’s four-game winning streak in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup behind a 94-83 victory on Sunday night at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Sundov, who was sizzling hot from the three-point region in the opening half, was called for his fifth foul late in the third period of the tightly fought encounter, forcing coach Yeng Guaio to sit out the 7-foot-3 Croatian.
Ironically, it was during that stretch when the Elasto Painters came through with their biggest run of the night and clinch their eighth win in 11 outings in a tie with idle Alaska for the top spot.
With Sundov sitting out to start the fourth quarter, Rain or Shine went on a 19-4 tear behind Jeff Chan, Ryan Arana, Larry Rodriguez and Jervy Cruz to turn a 63-64 deficit into a 82-68 lead with 5:47 left to play.
Guiao went for the kill by fielding in Sundov back, and the 32-year-old import who finished with a team-high 23 points responded by hitting his final three-pointer of the night for an 87-74 lead in the final 3:19.
“The locals held their ground. We were able to defend their import by helping each other out. So by the time Bruno came back, we had the game under control,” said Guiao afterwards.
“That was the key stretch in the game when they had the lead over us and we had to take out Bruno.”
Before committing his fifth foul, Sundov was hitting the lights out of the arena, going 3-of-4 from three-point range in the first half. He finished with 4-of-5 from the same spot, and had 11 rebounds.
“I was a little worried when Bruno fell into the same pattern of fouling out early and we have to sit him for a long period,” added Guiao. “But I have to give credit to the guys by holding their own and showing their poise (in Bruno’s absence).
Chan added 16 points and Arana with 13. Cruz, Rodriguez and rookie Chris Tiu combined for 24 points, with Cruz adding eight rebounds as the Elasto Painters won the battle off the boards, 58-46.
The Express fell to 5-6 overall despite as their four-game winning run came to an end despite a 34-point, 15-rebound effort from import Michael Dunigan.
But only KG Canaleta was the lone local to finish in double figures for Air21 with 12 markers.
“Michael (Dunigan) will get his points but he can’t win the game all by himself for us,” said Air21 coach Franz Pumaren.
Rain or Shine (94) -- Sundov 23, Chan 16, Arana 13, Tiu 8, Cruz 8, Rodriguez 8, Lee 7, Quinahan 5, Norwood 2, Belga 2, Ibanes 2, Matias 0, Jaime 0, Tang 0.
Air21 (83) -- Dunigan 34, Canaleta 12, Menor 7, Omolon 7, Cortez 6, Arboleda 5, Wilson 4, Ritualo 4, Sena 2, Isip 2, Baclao 0, Custodio 0.
Quarterscores: 18-18, 45-38, 63-64, 94-83